Study: Certain Classes of Anticholinergic Drugs Carry Higher Risk for Dementia

May 4, 2018 | Aging Services Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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​Strong associations exist between use of certain types of anticholinergic medications—antidepressants, antiparkinsonian agents, and urologic drugs—and increased risk of dementia, according to an April 25, 2018, study in The BMJ. Anticholinergic drugs block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and are used for a variety of indications including depression, gastrointestinal disorders, Parkinson disease, urinary incontinence, epilepsy, and allergies. These drugs are known to affect cognition, the authors said, and it is inappropriate to prescribe them to older adults with dementia (for more information, see Issues in Continuing Care Risk Management: May 6, 2016: Anticholinergics Linked to Brain Dysfunction in Older Adults, Falls Risk in Postmenopausal Women). Studies have not determined whether the drug or the patient's underlying condition explains the cognitive effects. The authors conducted a case-controlled study of 40,770 patients ages 65 to 99, diagnosed with dementia between April 2006 and July 2015, and 283,933 control patients without dementia.

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