Higher Dementia Risk Linked To More Use Of Common Drugs

Posted by on January 27, 2015 in Health, Prevention with 0 Comments
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Medical Express

Diagram of the brain of a person with Alzheimer's Disease. Credit: Wikipedia/public domain.

Diagram of the brain of a person with Alzheimer's Disease. Credit: Wikipedia/public domain.

A large study links a significantly increased risk for developing dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, to taking commonly used medications with anticholinergic effects at higher doses or for a longer time. Many older people take these medications, which include nonprescription diphenhydramine (Benadryl). JAMA Internal Medicinepublished the report, called “Cumulative Use of Strong Anticholinergic Medications and Incident Dementia.”

The study used more rigorous methods, longer follow-up (more than seven years), and better assessment of medication use via pharmacy records (including substantial nonprescription use) to confirm this previously reported link. It is the first study to show a dose response: linking more risk for developing dementia to higher use of anticholinergic medications. And it is also the first to suggest that dementia risk linked to anticholinergic medications may persist—and may not be reversible even years after people stop taking these drugs.

“Older adults should be aware that many medications—including some available without a prescription, such as over-the-counter sleep aids—have strong ,” said Shelly Gray, PharmD, MS, the first author of the report, which tracks nearly 3,500 Group Health seniors participating in the long-running Adult Changes in Thought (ACT), a joint Group Health-University of Washington (UW) study funded by the National Institute on Aging. “And they should tell their  about all their over-the-counter use,” she added.

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