Anticholinergic Drug Use and Dementia: What's the Link?

27 April, 2018, 01:18 | Author: Stuart Potter
  • Two million Britons take medicine that may increase the risk of dementia, depression and Parkinson's by a third

Those factors are associated with a 40 to 60 percent increased risk of dementia.

Long-term use of some antidepressants is associated with an increased risk of dementia, even when taken up to 20 years before a diagnosis, according to a large British study. These interrupt a neurotransmitter involved in regulating some of the body's most basic functions, as well as playing a role in thinking...

The study is the largest of its kind to date and the findings prompt the researchers to say that clinicians should avoid long term prescribing of some anticholinergics to patients aged 45 and over. This risk increased by three percentage points among those who had used anticholinergics for more than one year, they said. Different classes of anticholinergic drugs have been developed to treat diseases including depression, gastrointestinal disorders, Parkinson's disease, urinary incontinence, epilepsy and to manage allergies. However, after a new study written by researchers at the University of East Anglia, we now face a new question: what should we do? In addition, "many studies have linked anticholinergic drug use with concurrent or short term cognitive effects, but few have examined associations of long term anticholinergic exposure; the latter tend to report positive associations". Researchers compared how many daily doses of anticholinergic drugs these patients had been prescribed between four and 20 years earlier with a control group of nearly 300,000 matched individuals.

Using anticholinergic medications over depression promotes higher dementia risks, confirmed by the researchers from the University of East Anglia after analyzing the patients who had always been suffering through Parkinson's disease, depression or bladder conditions and prescribed with heavy dosage of certain anticholinergics.

Examples of frequently-prescribed anticholinergic antidepressants include Amitriptyline, Dosulepin and Paroxetine. This allowed the researchers to show that some types of anticholinergic medications were not associated with the onset of dementia.

But this doesn't mean that these medications are directly causing dementia, and experts say patients should not stop taking any medicine without talking to their doctor.

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"While there are important advantages to research that uses the rich data held in medical records, we know that less than 70 per cent of people with dementia receive a formal diagnosis, and this study may not tell the whole story".

"We don't know exactly how anticholinergics might cause dementia", said study co-author Dr. Chris Fox, a professor of clinical psychiatry at UEA's Norwich Medical School. They also analyzed 27 million medications.

"We found that people who had been diagnosed with dementia were up to 30% more likely to have been prescribed specific classes of anticholinergic medications", said Savva in a statement.

George Savva from the School of Health Sciences of the University of East Anglia reported that, "This research is really important because there are an estimated 350 million people affected globally by depression".

The researchers also caution that patients should always consult with their physicians before changing any medication regimen. 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.

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