Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 28th 2015 Contents A28
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Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, January 28, 2015
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SECRETARY TO THE BOARD
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A study has linked commonly used medicines,
including over-the-counter treatments for condi-
tions such as insomnia and hay-fever, to dementia.
All of the types of medication in question are
drugs that have an "anticholinergic" effect. Experts
say people should not panic or stop taking their
In the US study in the journal Jama Internal Med-
icine, higher doses and prolonged use were linked
to higher dementia risk in elderly people.
The researchers only looked at older people and
found the increased risk appeared when people took
drugs every day for three years or more.
All medicines can have side-effects and anti-
cholinergic-type drugs that block a neurotransmitter
called acetylcholine are no exception.
Patient information leaflets accompanying such
drugs warn of the possibility of reduced attention
span and memory problems as well as a dry mouth.
But researchers say people should also be aware
that they may be linked to a higher risk of developing
Dr Shelly Gray and colleagues from the University
of Washington followed the health of 3,434 people
aged 65 and older who had no signs of dementia
at the start of the study.
They looked at medical and pharmacy records to
determine how many of the people had been given
a drug with an anticholinergic effect, at what dose
and how often and compared this data with sub-
sequent dementia diagnoses over the next decade.
The most commonly used anticholinergic-type
drugs were medicines for treating depression, anti-
histamines for allergies such as hay-fever or to aid
sleep/promote drowsiness, and drugs to treat urinary
incontinence. Nearly a fifth were drugs that had
been bought over the counter.
Over the course of the study, 797 of the partic-
ipants developed dementia.
The study estimated that people taking at least
ten mg/day of doxepin (antidepressant), four mg/day
of diphenhydramine (a sleep aid), or five mg/day
of oxybutynin (a urinary incontinence drug) for
more than three years would be at greater risk of
The researchers say doctors and pharmacists
might want to take a precautionary approach and
offer different treatments instead. And when there
is no alternative, they could give the lowest dose
for the shortest time possible.
Dr Gray says some of the study participants have
agreed to have an autopsy after their death.
"We will look at the brain pathology and see if
we can find a biological mechanism that might
explain our results."
Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer s
Research UK, said the study was interesting but not
definitive---there was, he said, no evidence that
these drugs cause dementia.
Dr Doug Brown, from the UK s Alzheimer s Soci-
ety, said: "There have been concerns that regular
use by older people of certain medications with
anticholinergic effects, such as sleep aids and hay-
fever treatments, can increase the risk of dementia
in certain circumstances, which this study supports.
"However, it is still unclear whether this is the
case and if so, whether the effects seen are a result
of long-term use or several episodes of short-term
use. More robust research is needed to understand
what the potential dangers are, and if some drugs
are more likely to have this effect than others.
"We would encourage doctors and pharmacists
A study estimated that people taking at least ten mg/day of doxepin
(antidepressant), four mg/day of diphenhydramine (a sleep aid), or five mg/day of
oxybutynin (a urinary incontinence drug) for more than three years would be at
greater risk of developing dementia.
Dementia 'linked' to common
to be aware of this potential link and would advise
anyone concerned about this to speak to their
GP before stopping any medication."
He said the charity was funding more research
in this area to better understand any connections
between these and other drugs on the development
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Reg-
ulatory Agency, which monitors the safety of
medicines in clinical use in the UK, said it would
review any new evidence.
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