Opioid Use and Mortality Risk in Older Patients with Dementia: Christina Jensen-Dahm, MD, PhD


The neurologist in the Danish Dementia Research Center at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark, discussed a cohort study that examined the association between opioid use and the risk of mortality in an older patient population living with dementia. [WATCH TIME: 5 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 5 minutes

“We've done some previous studies where we could see that opioid use was more frequent among elderly with dementia, more so than in those without dementia. We could also see that opioid use has been increasing. Generally, opiates are associated with severe side effects, and have been associated with increased mortality risk in the general population. But we didn't don't know if that was the case in elderly patients with dementia.”

There has been a rise in excess mortality risk associated with opioids in general and over the last decade.1 In a recent study presented at the 2023 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, July 16-20, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, by lead author Christina Jensen-Dahm, MD, PhD, findings showed that new opioid use is significantly associated with an increased risk of mortality in older patients with dementia.2

Patients (n = 75,471) enrolled were from Denmark, aged 65 and older, and were diagnosed with dementia between January 2008 and December 2018. Among the total amount of patients with dementia, 42% (n = 31,619) redeemed an opioid prescription at a pharmacy. Researchers followed patients for 180 days after their first prescription of opioids and compared results to include a group of age and sex-matched individuals who did not receive an opioid prescription.

Following the presentation, Jensen-Dahm, neurologist, Danish Dementia Research Center, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark, sat down in an interview with NeurologyLive® to provide an overview of the study. She talked about the key findings from the cohort study as well as the types of opioids associated with the highest risk of excess mortality. In addition, she discussed why it is important for physicians to carefully consider the risks and benefits before prescribing opioids to patients with dementia.

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1. Jensen-Dahm C, Janbek J, Gasse C, Laursen TM, Waldemar G. Excessive mortality risk associated with new opioid use in older people with dementia. Presented at: 2022 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference; July 16 to July 20; Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Abstract 77103.
2. New Use of Opioids Increases Risk of Death Elevenfold in Older Adults with Dementia. News Release. Alzheimer’s Association. Published July 18, 2023. Accessed July 18, 2023. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-use-of-opioids-increases-risk-of-death-elevenfold-in-older-adults-with-dementia-301879360.html#:~:text=AMSTERDAM%2C%20July%2018%2C%202023%20%2F,(AAIC%C2%AE)%202023%2C%20in
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