Although it is not known exactly how many Australians have dementia, it is estimated to affect up to 436,000 people. In 2017, dementia caused more than 13,700 deaths and was the second-leading cause of death in Australia, behind coronary heart disease (18,600 deaths). Dementia is the leading cause of death for females.
Dementia is not one specific disease, but a term used to describe a group of conditions characterised by the gradual impairment of brain function. There are many different forms of dementia—Alzheimer’s disease is the most common. Although dementia can affect younger people, it occurs mainly among those aged over 65, and is a major cause of disability and dependency among older people. This report focuses on dispensing patterns for 4 types of anti-dementia medications, the associated costs to people and the Government, and other medications being taken.
Donepezil was the most commonly dispensed medication
In 2016–17 in Australia, anti-dementia medications were dispensed to about 58,500 people aged 30 and over. For about one-quarter (27%,15,800) of these people, anti-dementia medications were dispensed for the first time.
Donepezil accounted for 65% of all anti-dementia medications dispensed, followed by Galantamine (15%), Rivastigmine (12%) and Memantine (8%). Donepezil was also the most commonly dispensed medication for people taking anti-dementia medications for the first time (73%), followed by Rivastigmine (12%), Galantamine (9%) and Memantine (6%).
$20 million was spent on anti-dementia medications in 2016–17
The total expenditure for anti-dementia medications, including Australian Government expenditure and patient contributions, was $20 million in 2016–17. Government expenditure comprised 80% of the total, with an average government subsidy of $29.11 per prescription and an average cost to people with dementia of $7.35 per prescription.