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Bispebjerg Hospital - a part of Copenhagen University Hospital
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Analgesics use and withdrawal in people with dementia - a register-based Danish study and a systematic review

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INTRODUCTION: Pain assessment in people with dementia is difficult, and withdrawal of analgesics may allow for assessment of treatment efficacy whilst decreasing pill burden, adverse events and interactions. We aimed to describe the use of analgesics among elderly in Denmark and to compile the evidence for withdrawal of analgesics among people with dementia.

METHODS: With respect to analgesics use, we employed data from national registries on the analgesic prescription use (opioids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen) in 2017 among elderly people with and without dementia. Trial evidence was produced by performing a systematic search in MEDLINE, Embase and Cinahl for trials evaluating withdrawal of analgesics in people with dementia.

RESULTS: Opioids were prescribed more frequently (p = 0.026) and NSAIDs less frequently (p = 0.026) to people with dementia. With respect to trial evidence, we identified two studies: An observational cross-over study (n = 3) reporting acetaminophen withdrawal leading to increases in pain frequency and duration, and a cluster-randomised clinical trial (n = 352) reporting changes in mobilization-observation-behaviour-intensity-dementia-2 (MOBID-2) pain score during a four-week withdrawal period (acetaminophen, opioids and/or pregabaline) from a mean ± standard deviation of 2.3 ± 2.1 to 2.9 ± 2.6 compared with 3.5 ± 2.6 to 3.5 ± 2.5 in the control group.

CONCLUSIONS: In Denmark, use of opioids is higher in elderly with dementia compared to elderly without dementia. The evidence suggests that withdrawal of analgesics may aggravate pain but increases in pain scores may be of little clinical relevance in most people. Clinical trials investigating analgesics withdrawal are warranted.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDanish Medical Journal
Volume66
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)A5578
ISSN1603-9629
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

ID: 59267108