18-Feb-15 9:30 AM  CST

New Study Finds Certain Drugs may have link of Higher Risk of Dementia

A new study has found that anticholinergic such as diphenhydramine, tricyclic antidepressants, like doxepin, specific older antihistamines, Chlor-Trimeton, and antimuscarinic drugs like oxybutynin, may play a role in the development of dementia. The study, which points out that patients who use these types of drugs for long periods of time and at higher dosages seemed to have the most associated risk, does not prove a true cause and effect. Researchers went further to state that patients taking lower dosages of these classifications of drugs did not appear to have any associated affect and that no patient should ever abruptly stop taking medication therapies without first speaking with their prescriber.

Anticholinergic drugs work by blocking acetylcholine, a natural chemical produced within the body and in particular, the brain. Patients that have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a disease that involves memory loss and increased dementia, have a depletion of acetylcholine within the brain. The study, conducted by Group Health Research Institute at the University of Washington, followed 3,500 senior citizens for more than 7 years. The study found that patients who took the following regime of drugs, doxepin 10mg, Chlor-Trimeton 4mg, and oxybutynin 5mg every day for a period of at least three years had a greater risk of developing dementia.

Researchers are quick to point out that the drugs alone did not point to a greater risk of dementia, but rather the continued and cumulative use of these drugs or drugs within the classification of anticholinergic, seemed to point to a higher risk for dementia. Many medications, including over-the-counter remedies have anticholinergic effects. Patients that may be at a greater risk for dementia, particularly older adults, should use caution when taking anticholinergic drugs. The study, which was published in the January 26th edition of the Journal of American Medicine Association, is the first such study conducted on the link between anticholinergic and dementia. While the study may help lead to a greater understanding of what may cause dementia we are still a long way from the true answers.



Huges, S., (2015) “Strongest evidence yet links anticholinergic drugs and dementia”, Medscape, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/838788, retrieved, 14. February 2015

Peidt, R., (2015) “Certain allergy, depression meds tied to higher odds for dementia” WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/news/20150126/use-of-certain-allergy-depression-meds-tied-to-higher-odds-for-dementia, retrieved, 14. February 2015

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Source: Sandy Andrews  

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