Which everyday drugs have been linked to dementia?

Which everyday drugs have been linked to dementia?

Which everyday drugs have been linked to dementia?

They looked back at prescribing records for up to 20 years earlier, to find out whether there was a link between the anticholinergic drugs they were given and a later diagnosis of dementia.

In middle and older age, more people are likely to take more than one type of drug for a variety of health problems and the impacts of taking drugs long term aren't understood.

"It could be that these medications are being prescribed for very early symptoms indicating the onset of dementia".

The team drilled down to see whether there were links between different classes of anticholinergic medication and incidence of dementia diagnosis.

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.

Dementia was linked to increasing exposure to antidepressant, urological and antiparkinson drugs. The drugs have been prescribed for depression, gastrointestinal disorders, Parkinson's disease, urinary incontinence, epilepsy and to manage allergies.

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

Interestingly, anticholinergic drugs, and particularly oxybutyrin, have been consistently associated with short term cognitive decline in randomised controlled studies, so a long term risk of dementia is "plausible", they write.

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

The exact reasons for the increased risk of dementia among those taking certain anticholinergic medications remain unclear. "Doctors, nurses and pharmacists need to work with older people and their carers to ensure that they only take medication if the benefits clearly outweigh the harms".

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".

"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". However, after a new study written by researchers at the University of East Anglia, we now face a new question: what should we do?

Antidepressants (primarily amitriptyline, dosulepin [also known as dothiepin], and paroxetine), and urologicals (primarily oxybutynin and tolterodine) with an ACB score of 3 were consistently associated with incident dementia. The data was compared to the data of 283,933 people that didn't have dementia.

The researchers do stress that patients prescribed anticholinergic drugs shouldn't just stop taking their medicines.

"Many of the treatment options for these conditions involve medication with anticholinergic effects".

"We don't know exactly how anticholinergics might cause dementia". The warning to not use anticholinergic drugs in Parkinson's disease is also important. "Specifically, for most highly anticholinergic drugs, non-pharmacological and pharmacological alternatives are available and should be considered", they conclude. Speaking to the BBC, Dr Ian Maidment from Aston University said it was important for people not to panic.

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