Some Drugs May Increase Dementia Risk
The drugs in question are frequently prescribed for bladder disorders, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, depression, allergies and gastrointestinal disorders that often occur in people over age 55. These “anticholinergic” medications help regulate smooth muscle activity. The study from the UK’s University of Nottingham found that taking these drugs daily for three years or more led to a 50 percent increased risk of dementia. To determine the increased risk researchers examined the medical records of 58,769 patients diagnosed with dementia and 225,574 others who were not affected. After accounting for other risk factors associated with dementia, results showed an increased risk of dementia among patients taking anticholinergic drugs overall and specifically for anticholinergic antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anti-Parkinson’s drugs, as well as drugs for bladder conditions and epilepsy. The researchers wrote that they found a greater risk in taking these medications for people diagnosed with dementia before age 80, which they added “indicates that anticholinergic drugs should be prescribed with caution in middle-aged people as well as in older people.” Because the study was observational in nature, the investigators said no firm conclusions can be drawn about whether the drugs actually cause dementia and noted that in some cases, it was possible the drugs were prescribed to address concerns that were recognized as being very early symptoms of dementia.
Carol A.C. Coupland et al “Anticholinergic Drug Exposure and the Risk of Dementia: A Nested Case-Control Study,” JAMA Internal Medicine, June 24, 2019, doi: 10.1001/jamainternme.2019.0677
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