These Common Drugs May Increase Dementia Risk

Image: Örjan Karlsson, CC BY 3.0

By Maria Cohut, 25 June 2019

| Medical News Today – A common class of drugs that doctors prescribe for a number of conditions — from bladder problems to Parkinson’s disease and depression — may increase a person’s risk of dementia, a large new study concludes.

New research by scientists from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom has analyzed the link between a certain class of drugs and the risk of dementia.

The drugs in question, called anticholinergics (see list below), work by inhibiting a chemical messenger called acetylcholine.

Their effect is to help relax or contract muscles, and doctors can prescribe them to help treat bladder conditions, gastrointestinal problems, and some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

In their new study, which looked at data from tens of thousands of participants, the researchers concluded that anticholinergics may increase a person’s risk of developing dementia.

The National Institute for Health Research funded this study, and the scientists published their findings yesterday in JAMA Internal Medicine. (Story continues below … ) 

List of anticholinergics

Anticholinergics are only available with a doctor’s prescription. Examples of these drugs include:

  • atropine (Atropen)
  • belladonna alkaloids
  • benztropine mesylate (Cogentin)
  • clidinium
  • cyclopentolate (Cyclogyl)
  • darifenacin (Enablex)
  • dicylomine
  • fesoterodine (Toviaz)
  • flavoxate (Urispas)
  • glycopyrrolate
  • homatropine hydrobromide
  • hyoscyamine (Levsinex)
  • ipratropium (Atrovent)
  • orphenadrine
  • oxybutynin (Ditropan XL)
  • propantheline (Pro-banthine)
  • scopolamine
  • methscopolamine
  • solifenacin (VESIcare)
  • tiotropium (Spiriva)
  • tolterodine (Detrol)
  • trihexyphenidyl
  • trospium

An almost 50% increase in risk

For their study, lead researcher Prof. Carol Coupland and team analyzed the medical records of 58,769 people with dementia and 225,574 people without dementia. They were all 55 years old or above at baseline.

Among those with dementia, 63% were women and the average age was 82. For each person with dementia, the researchers found five control matches of the same age and sex and who attended the same general practice to receive medical care.

Prof. Coupland and colleagues sourced the data from the QResearch database and looked at medical records from between January 1, 2004 and January 31, 2016.

The researchers found that anticholinergic drugs in general were associated with a higher risk of dementia. More specifically, however, anticholinergic antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, anti-Parkinson’s drugs, bladder drugs, and epilepsy drugs were associated with the highest increase in risk.

Among these, the most frequently prescribed drugs were antidepressants, anti-vertigo drugs, and bladder antimuscarinic drugs (for the treatment of overactive bladders) … Read more.

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