Commonly Prescribed Medicines Increase Dementia Risk In Older Adults, Says Study

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Scientists have long viewed anticholingergic drugs to be associated with an increased risk of dementia.

Experts from the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, detected a relationship that should lead doctors and patients to be more cautious with the use of anticholinergic drugs that are widely used throughout the world to treat a variety of conditions including obstructive pulmonary disease chronic, bladder conditions, allergies, gastrointestinal disorders and symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

People over age 55 who used strong anticholinergic medication each day for more than three years had a 50 percent increased risk of developing dementia, according to findings published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The main function of these drugs is to help contract and relax the muscles.

The study involved analyzing data on 284,343 adults in the United Kingdom, aged 55 and older, between 2004 and 2016.

According to a new large study, commonly prescribed drugs may increase a person's risk of dementia.

No increased risks were found for the other types of anticholinergic drugs such as antihistamines and gastrointestinal drugs. If [people] have concerns, then they should discuss them with their doctor to consider the pros and cons of the treatment they are receiving.

For the research Among those with dementia, 63% were ladies and the normal age was 82.

"The risks of this type of medication should be carefully considered by healthcare professionals alongside the benefits when the drugs are prescribed and alternative treatments should be considered where possible".

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The study was observational and was, therefore, unable to evaluate causality; however, the authors said that if the association was causal, the findings indicated that around 10% of dementia diagnoses were attributable to anticholinergic drug exposure, equating to around 20,000 of the 209,600 new cases of dementia per year in the UK.

The most frequently prescribed anticholinergic drugs were antidepressants, drugs to treat vertigo, motion sickness or vomiting and bladder antimuscarinic drugs, the study noted.

This is not the first analysis to show a link between anticholinergics and dementia: an observational study previous year showed that associations between anticholinergic medications and dementia persisted up to 2 decades after exposure.

The study also had some limitations-for example, some patients may not have taken their prescribed medication as directed, so anticholinergic exposure levels could have been misclassified.

"These findings also highlight the importance of carrying out regular medication reviews", Coupland added.

Scientists at the University of Nottingham looked at decades' worth of prescribing and diagnosis data for 284,343 over-55s registered with Global Positioning System in the UK.

"I spend a lot of my time in the memory disorder clinic seeing geriatric patients and taking people off medications, mostly ones that have anticholinergic properties, and many times there can be another drug out there that has less anticholinergic impact or is non-anticholinergic that may work", Scharre said.

In the years prior to dementia diagnosis or the equivalent date in controls, approximately 57% of cases and 51% of controls received at least one strong anticholinergic drug, with an average of six among the cases and four among the controls.

After accounting for other risk factors for dementia, researchers concluded that some strong anticholinergic meds were associated with the increased risk. Note: material may have been edited for length and content.

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