Benzodiazepine associated with higher risk of dementia for people over 65

credit: National Cancer Institute Daniel Sone (Photographer) - PD

(Best Syndication News) - A study found that people over 65 who start taking benzodiazepine are at a 50 percent increased risk for developing dementia within 15 years compared to people who never took the anxiety and insomnia medication. The study was published in bmj.com today.

Benzodiazepine is prescribed to people over 65 in France at a rate of 30 percent, in Canada at 20 percent, and in Spain at 15 percent. In the UK and US it is prescribed less often, however, many patients have continued to take the medication for years even though the prescribing guidelines suggests to limit the medication. Other studies have found increased risk for dementia, while other study results did not see the risk.

In this new study, researchers from France investigated 1,063 men and women with an average age of 78. Participants lived in France and did not have dementia at the start of the study in 1987. A follow-up 20 years later was completed. The researchers compared the use of benzodiazepine with the development of dementia. Additionally, they adjusted for other factors that could contribute to dementia including age, gender, education, marital status, and more.

There were 95 participants who started taking benzodiazepine after the study began. There were 253 cases of dementia identified. Out of those with dementia, 30 had started taking benzodiazepine and the remaining 223 did not take the medication.

The chance for dementia in the group taking benzodiazepine was 4.8 out of 100 person years compared to 3.2 per 100 person years for those whom have never taken the medicine.

The researcher suggests that benzodiazepine is still a successful medication for treating anxiety and insomnia, however, there are other risks that may need to be considered for elderly patients. Falls and fall-related fractures are of concern after taking this medication. Additionally, this study suggests that dementia risk could also be of concern for elderly patients. The researchers say that physicians should consider these adverse effects and limit the medication to only a few weeks.

The dementia effects for people under 65 should still be investigated.

By: Marsha Quinn
Health Reporter

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