Risk of Commonly Prescribed DrugsJune 28, 2018
As we age, we become more susceptible to certain medical conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, urinary incontinence, and depression. One treatment option for these conditions is the use of anticholinergic drugs, which block the effects of the chemical released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerves. However, a recent study found that the anticholinergic drugs that are used to treat Parkinson’s disease, urinary incontinence, and depression may also increase the risk of dementia in older adults.
In the United States, as many as 50 percent of older adults are prescribed an anticholinergic drug to treat a range of neurological, gastrointestinal, and psychiatric conditions. The study examined the risk of new onset dementia in 350,000 older adults. Researchers found that patients who were prescribed the type of anticholinergic drugs that treat Parkinson’s, depression, and urinary incontinence were 30 percent more likely to develop dementia in the future. However, patients who took the type of anticholinergic that treats asthma and gastrointestinal issues did not have an increased risk of dementia.
Understanding the Increased Risk
It is unclear as to why certain types of anticholinergics are associated with a greater risk for dementia than others. One explanation is that people with Alzheimer’s disease tend to have low levels of acetylcholine. Alzheimer’s-like symptoms may occur when the drug blocks the activity of acetylcholine in the brain that controls memory and cognition. Another theory is that anticholinergics can affect neuroinflammation, which can cause an excess of certain proteins that are known to be found in dementia patients, particularly those with Alzheimer’s disease.
A 30 percent increased risk of developing dementia is a significant concern. However, other factors are associated with an even greater risk of dementia, including smoking, a lack of social interactions, and physical inactivity. These lifestyle factors, which patients can take steps to control, can increase an individual’s risk of developing dementia by 40 to 60 percent.
This study is the first to look at specific classes of anticholinergic drugs. It allowed researchers to show the differences between certain classes of medications and that some caused a greater risk of dementia, while others did not. Researchers were particularly interested in the classes of the drug that were not associated with an increased risk of dementia.
While the results of the study suggested an association between anticholinergic drugs and an increased risk of dementia, they do not prove causation. However, the results should urge physicians to be proactive about considering other medication options besides anticholinergic drugs. There are many treatment alternatives for medical conditions like dementia, urinary incontinence, and depression. Physicians should consider all practical alternatives and weigh the risks versus the benefits for the patient.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Dementia Patients
If you have a loved one who suffers from dementia, and he or she was prescribed an anticholinergic medication, contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. We will conduct a thorough investigation into your case and determine whether the healthcare provider responsible for your loved one’s care was negligent in any way. We will protect your rights and seek the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Towson, allowing us to represent medical malpractice victims in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.