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Doctors should consider Anticholinergic Drug Use by Patients before Treating for Alzheimer's Disease in Elderly Patients

February 1st 2006

Doctors should consider Anticholinergic Drug Use by Patients before Treating for Alzheimer's Disease in Elderly Patients


Drugs including bronchodilators, antihistamines, analgesics, anti-hypertensives, antiparkinsonian agents may lead to mild cognitive impairment in elderly patients.  According to an article published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) these “anticholinergic drugs” are linked to mental impairment.

These drugs are commonly used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, urinary incontinence and Parkinson’s disease in older patients.  In a press release issued by the BMJ, it is important for doctors to be aware of this side effect.

The researchers interviewed 372 elderly people without dementia about their current and past illnesses and drug use.  Their cognitive performance was assessed and participants were monitored for up to eight years.


About 10% of the participants took anticholinergic drugs over an extended period.  These users showed “poorer cognitive performance compared with non-users and 80% met the criteria for mild cognitive impairment compared with 35% of non-users.  The report says that these users were not at an increased risk of developing dementia though.

The researchers took known risk factors into account.  According to the study “anticholinergic drugs remained the most highly significant predictor of this condition.”  People with mild cognitive impairment due to anticholinergic drugs could be in the “absurd situation of receiving pro-cholinergic drugs to counteract the effects of anticholinergic agents.”

The researchers suggest that doctors assess the current use of anticholinergic drugs in their elderly patients before considering treatment for dementia. 

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By Dan Wilson
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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:49 PM