Older adults on RX meds increase dementia odds: study

David Matthews

A new study found that older adults prescribed antidepressants, bladder antimuscarinics, antipsychotics and antiepileptic drugs are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with dementia.

The study. published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday, confirms previous research linking prescription drugs and dementia.

According to this new research, an adult who took an anticholinergic medication daily for at least three years had a 50% higher chance of being diagnosed with dementia.

“The study is important because it strengthens a growing body of evidence showing that strong anticholinergic drugs have long term associations with dementia risk,” Carol Coupland, professor of medical statistics in primary care at the University of Nottingham who co-wrote the study, said.

“It also highlights which types of anticholinergic drugs have the strongest associations. This is important information for physicians to know when considering whether to prescribe these drugs,” she said, adding “this is an observational study so no firm conclusions can be drawn about whether these anticholinergic drugs cause dementia.”

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The researchers found no similar connection between other types of common prescriptions like antihistamines, muscle relaxers and various gastrointestinal drugs.

The researchers did not find an explicit, causal connection between the drug use and the disease, but said more research in de-prescribing could connect those dots.

In the meantime, Dr. Douglas Scharre, director of the division of cognitive neurology at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, who was not involved in the study, said patients should speak with their doctors about possibly changing to new medication.

“Many times there can be another drug out there that has less anticholinergic impact or is non-anticholinergic that may work,” Scharre said.