Widely-Used Drugs Linked To Increased Dementia Risk

27 April, 2018, 01:18 | Author: Norman Carr
  • The research was published in the British Medical Journal and looked at the effects of drugs used to control moods movement and even the bladder

Though the 30% increased risk of developing dementia from long-term anticholinergic use is significant, it is still less than the risk associated with other modifiable risk factors for dementia such as smoking, social isolation and physical inactivity.

The risk was found among patients who take the drugs for a year or more for conditions including depression, Parkinson's disease and urinary incontinence, CNN said. These interrupt a neurotransmitter involved in regulating some of the body's most basic functions, as well as playing a role in thinking... "This study is large enough to evaluate the long-term effect and determine that harm may be experienced years before a diagnosis of dementia is made". Specifically, they've been linked to an increased risk of getting dementia, but as ever, a number of caveats are present.

Dr. Ian Maidment of Aston University in Birmingham, England advised patients not to panic, the BBC said. However, experts said that patients should keep taking their treatment, as the benefits are higher than the risks of not taking them. The study didn't investigate what might cause this link between anticholinergics and dementia risk, and researchers will need to build on these findings in future studies.

A total of 14,453 (35%) cases and 86,403 (30%) controls were prescribed at least one anticholinergic drug with an ACB score of 3 during this period. Patients with dementia had a higher exposure to anticholinergics in the previous four to 20 years before diagnosis, the researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) found.

Anticholinergic drugs are created to block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the central or peripheral nervous system, and have diverse actions, dependent on the site, the researchers explain.

The study of more than 300,000 people in Britain found that those diagnosed with dementia were nearly a third more likely to have been prescribed so-called anticholinergic medicines to treat depression and certain bladder conditions between four and 20 years earlier.

Anticholinergic anti-depressants include Amitriptyline, Dosulepin, and Paroxetine, said the researchers who had compared the medical records of 40,770 dementia patients older than 65 to those of 283,933 people without dementia. "And the association with dementia increases with greater exposure to these types of medication".

Patients with concerns should continue taking their medications until they can talk with their doctor, researchers say. They also analyzed 27 million medications. However, other such medications treating conditions such as hay fever or stomach cramps were not linked to dementia. "And we found that about 9% of our (dementia) cases had taken anticholinergics in the past, compared to about 6% of our controls".

"This research is really important because there are an estimated 350 million people affected globally by depression, and bladder conditions requiring treatment are estimated to affect over 13 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women in the United Kingdom and US".

"Doctors and patients should therefore be vigilant about using anticholinergic medications". Levels of acetylcholine are known to be significantly lower in people with Alzheimer's disease, the most common cause of dementia in older adults, according to the Mayo Clinic. "Further research is needed to understand possible reasons for this link". "We don't know exactly how anticholinergics might cause dementia", acknowledges study co-author Chris Fox, M.D., professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of East Anglia's Norwich Medical School and a consultant psychiatrist.


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