Which everyday drugs have been linked to dementia?

Everyday drugs raise the risk of dementia

The study, published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal, found that certain classes of anticholinergic drugs can lead to a 30 percent increased risk for developing dementia, according to CNN.

Researchers said patients who take them for more than a year, were 30% more likely to develop dementia. Dr Parastou Donyai, associate professor of social and cognitive pharmacy at the University of Reading, said: "This paper ties in well with current advice for doctors to be careful when using drugs with anticholinergic effects in older people, those who are frail and others with numerous health conditions". 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", comments co-author Noll Campbell, PharmD, MS., a Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University Center for Aging Research investigator. Specifically, they've been linked to an increased risk of getting dementia, but as ever, a number of caveats are present. However, after a new study written by researchers at the University of East Anglia, we now face a new question: what should we do?

"With many different medicines having at least some anticholinergic activity, one focus should be de-prescribing".

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.

Examples of frequently-prescribed anticholinergic antidepressants include Amitriptyline, Dosulepin and Paroxetine.

Dementia was linked to increasing exposure to antidepressant, urological and antiparkinson drugs.

The researchers suggested that doctors must take care when prescribing anticholinergic drugs and consider the risks, particularly when prescribing to Parkinson's patients.

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"But patients, don't suddenly stop medications".

"In total, there were 27 million prescription events that we were looking at over that period", Savva said.

Other antidepressants (mainly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) with an ACB score of 1 were linked to dementia, but only close to the time of prescription, which the researchers say is unlikely to represent a direct (causal) link. These lifestyle factors are associated with a 40% to 60% increased risk of developing dementia, according to a 2017 study.

The study found no risk with other anticholinergic medicines used to treat common conditions such as hay fever, travel sickness and stomach cramps.

A spokesperson for the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority said it would look to see if any action should be taken."Patient safety is our highest priority and we continuously monitor the safety of all medicines on the United Kingdom market".

"This research is really important because there are an estimated 350 million people affected globally by depression", comments lead researcher George Savva, Ph.D., a visiting researcher at the University of East Anglia's School of Health Sciences.

"We don't know exactly how anticholinergics might cause dementia".

The researchers also caution that patients should always consult with their physicians before changing any medication regimen. "Further research is needed to understand possible reasons for this link".

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