Scientists from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom found that people over age 55 who used strong anticholinergic medication each day for more than three years had a 50 percent increased risk of developing dementia.
Researchers analyzed medical data on nearly 59,000 people with dementia, which they collected between January 2004 and January 2016. The average age of patients was 82 and about 63 percent of them were women. Doctors prescribe anticholinergic drugs to treat conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bladder conditions, allergies, gastrointestinal disorders and symptoms of Parkinson's disease. The most frequently prescribed drugs were antidepressants, anti-vertigo drugs, and bladder antimuscarinic drugs (for the treatment of overactive bladders).
Carol Coupland, a researcher from the University of Nottingham and study lead author, explained: "The risks of this type of medication should be carefully considered by healthcare professionals alongside the benefits when the drugs are prescribed and alternative treatments should be considered where possible, such as other types of antidepressants or alternative types of treatment for bladder conditions." The analysis estimates anticholinergic drugs could be responsible for one in ten cases of the disease – around 20,000 a year. Though the link found between the drugs and development of dementia appears strong, the researchers noted that their findings are associations and do not show that the drugs cause dementia.