Possible link between Dementia and OTC Medications

A new study has found a possible link of commonly used over-the-counter medicines and treatments for conditions like insomnia and hay-fever, to dementia. The main thing in common that these medications have is that they all present an “anticholinergic” effect that researches believe in large quantities could present a larger dementia risk in elderly people.

This study was performed by a team of researchers in the University of Washington and was most recently published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. The investigation was lead by Dr. Shelly Gray, and she told reporters that their research followed the health of 3,434 people aged 65 and older who had no signs of dementia at the beginning of the study. They monitored the medications the patients were taking, especially those who that had an anticholinergic effect. They took into consideration the amount of the medication taken and how often. Furthermore they also looked at medical and pharmacy records with subsequent dementia diagnoses over the next decade. At the end of the study, 797 participants developed dementia. Although the study did not publish the specific brands of medications involved they did release the information that anticholinergic drugs and treatments were investigated.

The most commonly used anticholinergic drugs are medications that are used for treating allergies (antihistamines), sleeping pills, medication to treat urinary incontinence and antidepressants. 

The purpose of this investigation was not to deter patients and the general public from trusting these medications, but it is meant to draw the attention of doctors and pharmacists to be aware of the potential link. The researchers claim for the pharmaceutical industry and Doctors to take the results seriously and for them to take precautionary approach and perhaps consider alternative treatments for their patients.

Several experts in the medical and pharmaceutical community have mixed reaction to the study. Many are hoping for more in depth investigations to further explore the possible link between the medications and Dementia. Also, several members of the pharmaceutical community have pointed out that many of the drugs mentioned on the study like allergy and sleeping aids are not designed to be used continuously, and that patients should always consult with their doctors should they need a long term treatment for such conditions.

Further tests and investigations regarding this potential link are expected to happen and begin in the coming weeks, as researchers are hoping to further investigate the ramifications of the possible link between these and other medications and Dementia.

Related Read:

Stranger Than Fiction: A Real Life Dementia Village