A bitter pill to swallow - Polypharmacy and psychotropic treatment in people with advanced dementia

Lina Riedl, Esther Kiesel, Julia Hartmann, Julia Fischer, Carola Roßmeier, Bernhard Haller, Victoria Kehl, Josef Priller, Monika Trojan, Janine Diehl-Schmid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Polypharmacy is common in people with dementia. The use of psychotropic drugs (PDs) and other, potentially inappropriate medications is high. The aims of this cross-sectional study were 1) to investigate the use of drugs in people with advanced dementia (PWAD), living at home or in long term care (LTC); 2) to focus on PD use; and 3) to identify determinants of PD use. Methods: The study was performed in the context of EPYLOGE (IssuEs in Palliative care for people in advanced and terminal stages of YOD and LOD in Germany). 191 PWAD were included. All drugs that were administered at the date of the examination were recorded. Multiple logistic regression analysis identified determinants of PD use. Results: 96% of PWAD received medication with a median number of four drugs. 49.7% received five or more drugs. According to the Beers Criteria 39% of PWAD ≥ 65 years received at least one potentially inappropriate medication. 79% of PWAD were treated with PDs. Older PWAD and PWAD living in LTC facilities received significantly more drugs than younger PWAD, and PWAD living at home, respectively. Dementia etiology was significantly associated with the use of antipsychotics, antidepressants and sedative substances. Place of living was associated with the use of pain medication. Behavioral disturbances were associated with the use of antipsychotics and sedative substances. Conclusions: To mitigate the dangers of polypharmacy and medication related harm, critical examination is required, whether a drug is indicated or not. Also, the deprescribing of drugs should be considered on a regular basis. Trial registration: Clinicaltrial.gov, NCT03364179. Registered 6 December 2017.

Original languageEnglish
Article number214
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Advanced dementia
  • Antipsychotics
  • Deprescribing
  • LOD
  • Palliative care
  • Polypharmacy
  • Psychotropic drugs
  • YOD


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