A US study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, concerning long-term use of anticholinergic-type drugs (those which block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine), in older people, has discovered an association with the risk of developing dementia. Higher doses and prolonged use of these commonly prescribed medicines is linked (statistically) to a higher dementia risk in elderly people.
“The most commonly used anticholinergic-type drugs were medicines for treating depression, antihistamines 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”.
This study included prescribed medicines only.
The mechanism(s) by which anticholinergics might contribute to dementia risk are not known.
Roberts, M. (2015). Dementia ‘linked’ to common over-the-counter drugs. London: BBC Health News, January 27th 2015.
This relates to:
Full Text Link (Note: This article requires a suitable Athens password, a journal subscription or payment for access).
Gray, SL. Anderson, ML. [and] Dublin, S. [et al] (2015). Cumulative use of strong anticholinergics and incident dementia: a prospective cohort study. JAMA Internal Medicine. January 26th 2015. [Epub ahead of print].
There is an appraisal of this research from NHS Choices Behind the Headlines which explains it in more detail and offers due perspective.
Media dementia scare over hay fever and sleep drugs. London: NHS Choices Behind the Headlines, January 27th 2015.