New research suggests that regular use of certain types of commonly-prescribed drugs used to treat bladder conditions, Parkinson’s disease and depression, could significantly increase the risk of dementia in later life.
The study, carried out by experts from the University of Nottingham and funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), found that there was nearly a 50% increased risk of dementia among patients aged 55 and over who had used strong anticholinergic medication daily for three years or more.
Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said:
‘Our own researchers have already shown a strong link between anticholinergic drugs and risk of dementia. This study builds on this information, showing that long-term, high-dose use increases risk of some dementias, particularly vascular dementia.
‘A shortcoming of this type of study is that from this information we can’t rule out whether the diseases that cause dementia might have already begun in the brains of people involved before they started taking these drugs.
‘Our ongoing research at the University of East Anglia is exploring whether anticholinergic bladder drugs could increase risk by following people while they take the drug. This research will tell us whether these drugs can cause dementia and how they might be doing it.
‘Current guidelines for doctors say that anticholinergic drugs should be avoided for frail older people because of their impact on memory and thinking, but doctors should consider these new findings for all middle aged and older people as long-term use could raise the risk of dementia.’