Common antidepressants 'linked to increased risk of dementia'

The research was published in the British Medical Journal and looked at the effects of drugs used to control moods movement and even the bladder

The research was published in the British Medical Journal and looked at the effects of drugs used to control moods movement and even the bladder

Common antidepressants, bladder drugs and anti-Parkinson's medication account for tens of thousands of cases of dementia and doctors need to use them more sparingly, the most comprehensive study of its kind has found.

Researchers analysed more than 27 million prescriptions as recorded in the medical records of 40,770 patients over age 65 diagnosed with dementia compared to the records of 283,933 older adults without dementia.

Dr Parastou Donyai, associate professor of social and cognitive pharmacy at the University of Reading, said: "This type of study imagines that patients actually take their drugs as they were prescribed for them".

A 2015 study, for example, showed a 54% increased risk of dementia among individuals prescribed high levels of anticholinergics over a 10-year period, compared with a control group.

He said in most cases, the risk of dementia did not outweigh the risks associated with not taking the medication in the first place.

The results showed a "noticeable association" between increasing total anticholinergic use over the prior 4-20 years, and incident dementia diagnosis. "The biggest effect was in drugs used for bladder disorders; such as oxybutynin and tolterodine; antidepressants, including amitriptyline and paroxetine; and Parkinson's disease, including benzatropine and procyclidine", says The Independent.

"Current guidelines for doctors say that anticholinergic drugs should be avoided for frail older people due to their impact on memory and thinking, but doctors should consider these new findings for all over-65s as long-term use could raise the risk of dementia", said Dr. Doug Brown, Chief Policy and Research Officer at the Alzheimer's Society, said in a statement. The early symptoms of dementia include depression and urinary incontinence, so it is possible the drugs were sometimes being prescribed for people who already had the early stages.

However, no increased risk was found for drugs with possible anticholinergic activity (ACB score of 1) - and for anticholinergic gastrointestinal or respiratory drugs (ACB score of 3). In the United Kingdom, 34% to 48% of older adults take them, another study found.

"What we don't know for sure is whether the medication is the cause" of the dementia, said George Savva from the University of East Anglia's School of Health Science.

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

The researchers say that while the associations appear "moderate", they still reflect an "appreciable risk to patients", given the high incidence of dementia.

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

What Do Anticholinergic Drugs Do? The study didn't investigate what might cause this link between anticholinergics and dementia risk, and researchers will need to build on these findings in future studies. "Specifically, for most highly anticholinergic drugs, non-pharmacological and pharmacological alternatives are available and should be considered", they conclude.

"Doctors and patients should therefore be vigilant about using anticholinergic medications".

Dr. Ian Maidment of Aston University in Birmingham, England advised patients not to panic, the BBC said. "In the meantime, I strongly advise patients with any concerns to continue taking their medicines until they have consulted their doctor or pharmacist".

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