Background: Cholinesterase inhibitors (ChEIs) are being used for increasingly long periods of time, even in patients with severe Alzheimer's disease. Because there is little data to help clinicians to decide on when it is safe and appropriate to discontinue ChEIs after long-term use, practices may vary widely.
Methods: An internet-based survey was undertaken of Canadian dementia experts (geriatric psychiatrists, neurologists, geriatricians) involved in clinical trial research. Recommendations for ChEI discontinuation were determined based on responses to questions dealing with patient/caregiver preference, administrative considerations, effectiveness, and adverse events.
Results: There was reasonable consensus that ChEIs should be discontinued based on patient and caregiver preference, and in the presence of severe bothersome adverse events. There was much less consensus on issues related to effectiveness – in particular, what constitutes greater than expected decline. There was a general reluctance to rely on any single measure of cognition, function and/or behavior, and in particular, the MMSE was seen as unhelpful for making decisions about discontinuation.
Conclusion: Recommendations for discontinuing ChEIs after long-term use from a survey of dementia experts are presented. Ideally, clinical practice guidelines based on controlled discontinuation trials are needed.