Up to 70 per cent of elderly people in the UK and the US are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when they don’t have the disease at all. They are given powerful drugs – including ‘chemical coshes’ to sedate them – when all they have is mild memory loss which can happen with age, an expert panel warns.

Around 65 per cent of people aged over 80 will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in a new drive in the UK and the US to screen the elderly. But only between five and 15 per cent of people with mild cognitive impairment, such as memory loss, will ever develop Alzheimer’s. The rest will never suffer from the disease, despite the prognosis, and they may even improve, say specialists in the UK and Australia.

A similar picture is emerging for people labelled as having dementia. Around 25 per cent will never see their mild cognitive problems develop into full dementia. Despite this, virtually everyone displaying any mild cognitive problem, such as memory loss, will be given powerful drugs to treat a non-existent problem – and may suffer a cognitive decline as a result of medication. (Source: British Medical Journal, 2013; 347: f5125)