Anticholinergic medications are widely used by older adults to treat bladder dysfunction, mood, and pain, and many of them are available without prescription. Recent evidence has shown a greater risk of dementia, in particular Alzheimer's disease (AD), in individuals using anticholinergic medications regularly.
Since these drugs are often used to treat both motor symptoms and non-motor symptoms in patients with Parkinson's Disease (PD), there is concern for increased risk of dementia. Contrary to expectations, a study in the current issue of the Journal of Parkinson's Disease determined that the cognitive performance of PD patients taking anticholinergic medications did not differ from those who did not.
Principal investigator David J. Burn, Director of the Institute of Neuroscience and Professor of Movement Disorder Neurology at Newcastle University, UK, explained, "This is the first study to explore an association between anticholinergic burden and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in PD participants, and is timely given recent research demonstrating cumulative anticholinergic burden and risk of AD in the general population. Our assessment will help determine whether patients prescribed medication with anticholinergic activity are more likely to develop dementia, and hence allow early targeted intervention to reduce future risk."
Comparison of the PD+ADS (n = 83) and PD-ADS (n = 112) groups revealed no differences with respect to global cognition or assessments of attention, memory, and executive function at 18 months. The proportion of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) was similar in those with and without anticholinergic drug use. Although a greater proportion of PD subjects were taking anticholinergic medications, the total drug burden did not differ between the PD patients and controls.