Increased dementia risk found from common drugs that treat depression, more

27 April, 2018, 01:16 | Author: Cecil Davis
  • Everyday drugs raise the risk of dementia

Long-term use of certain anti-depressants have been linked to dementia in a large British study, although researchers could not definitively conclude that the drugs were the cause. It's a diverse group, with each individual drug used to treat a huge list of conditions, from hay fever and lung conditions to incontinence and depression, and millions around the world take them daily.

So a research team led by George Savva at the University of East Anglia, set out to estimate the association between duration and level of exposure to different classes of anticholinergic drugs and subsequent dementia.

However several other anticholinergic medications, including anti-histamines and those used for abdominal cramps, were not found to be linked to dementia - despite previous research suggesting that any anticholinergic might represent a risk.

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 drugs are used to treat a variety of conditions and work by blocking a key messenger (neurotransmitter) in the body called acetylcholine.

Hundreds of thousands of people are taking routine medicines that increase their risk of dementia by up to a third, researchers have warned.

Patients with concerns should continue taking their medications until they can talk with their doctor, researchers say.

In the meantime, they agree that anticholinergics in general should be avoided in older adults.

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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". 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".

"They need to consider the risk of long-term cognitive effects, as well as short-term effects, associated with specific drugs when weighing up risks and benefits".

The new study is among the largest of its kind and adds to the existing literature linking long-term anticholinergic use with dementia, according to Dr. Clive Ballard, executive dean of University of Exeter Medical School, who was not involved in the research. He told the BBC that compared with the risk posed by leading an unhealthy lifestyle, the potential risk of an anticholinergic drug contributing to the onset of the disease was "quite small". "Don't stop taking your medication".

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

"Many of the treatment options for these conditions involve medication with anticholinergic effects". Speaking to the BBC, Dr Ian Maidment from Aston University said it was important for people not to panic.

"But the headline claim that some drugs, especially antidepressants, can cause dementia up to 20 years later should be looked at closely".

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

What should patients do if they take any of these drugs?

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