by Colleen Fleiss on  September 6, 2020 at 4:21 AM Drug News
Common Drugs Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease Risk
Anti-cholinergic drugs used to treat a broad array of conditions, from allergies and colds to hypertension and urinary incontinence are linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline, particularly in older adults at greater risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD).

The study was conducted by a team of scientists, led by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. The findings of the study are published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study involved six hundred and eighty-eight adults (average age of 74) with no cognitive or memory problems. One-third of the participants were taking such medications, with an average of 4.7 anti-cholinergic drugs per person. The participants were given annual comprehensive cognitive tests for up to 10 years.


The results revealed that people taking at least one anti-cholinergic drug at baseline were 47 percent more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI), often a precursor to dementia such as AD, while being tracked over a period of up to a decade compared to participants who did not take such drugs.

Similarly, persons at genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease who took anti-cholinergic drugs were 2.5 times more likely to develop MCI than those without genetic risk factors and who were not taking anti-cholinergic drugs.

"This study, led by Alexandra Weigand, suggests that reducing anti-cholinergic drug use before cognitive problems appear may be important for preventing future negative effects on memory and thinking skills, especially for people at greater risk for Alzheimer's disease," said senior author Lisa Delano-Wood, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Weigand is a graduate student in the San Diego State University/University of California San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology.

"We believe this interaction between anti-cholinergic drugs and Alzheimer's risk biomarkers acts in a 'double hit' manner," said Weigand, the study's first author. "In the first hit, Alzheimer's biomarkers indicate that pathology has started to accumulate in and degenerate a small region called the basal forebrain that produces the chemical acetylcholine, which promotes thinking and memory. In the second hit, anti-cholinergic drugs further deplete the brain's store of acetylcholine. This combined effect most significantly impacts a person's thinking and memory."

"This points to a potential area for improvement since reducing anti-cholinergic drug dosages may possibly delay cognitive decline," said Weigand. "It's important for older adults who take anti-cholinergic medications to regularly consult with their doctors."

Source: Medindia

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