Science Update | Are Anti-Cholinergics Bad for the Brain? Major New Study Shows Increased Dementia Risk with Chronic Use
WHAT. New findings published this month online in leading medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine confirm that long-term use of anti-cholinergic medications significantly increase dementia risk. Anti-cholinergic agents impact the cholinergic neurotransmitter system, which plays an important role in the learning and the formation of memory. They are commonly used to treat mood disorders, bladder control and allergies. The UK study included over 58,000 cognitively independent individuals 55 and older enrolled during the 12-year study period. A nested case-control study which used a clinical practice-based database, it is one of the largest to look at the cognitive impact of this class of drugs.
WHY IT MATTERS. Anti-cholinergic medications are widely prescribed, especially to individuals at middle and later age. According to the researchers, these groups may be most vulnerable to the negative cognitive impact of chronic exposure to these agents.
THE TAKEAWAY. Individuals should discuss any use of anti-cholinergic medications with prescribing physicians and, for over the counter medications, with their pharmacist. Alternative treatments should be strongly considered.
Coupland CAC, Hill T, Dening T, Morriss R, Moore M, Hippisley-Cox J. Anticholinergic Drug Exposure and the Risk of Dementia: A Nested Case-Control Study. JAMA Intern Med. Published online June 24, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.0677