Could a widely used class of over the counter medications contribute to dementia?

28 Jan

There is a class of drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors that are prescribed to slow a patients decline into dementia. Cholinesterase is an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Thus, a cholinesterase inhibitor has the effect of increasing the level of acetylcholine in the brain.

This raises an interesting question, a number of widely used over the counter medications work by decreasing acetylcholine. Could these drugs contribute to dementia?

An article published by the BBC reports on research suggesting that this might be the case:

“All of the types of medication in question are drugs that have an “anticholinergic” effect.

Experts say people should not panic or stop taking their medicines.

In the US study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, higher doses and prolonged use were linked to higher dementia risk in elderly people.

The researchers only looked at older people and found the increased risk appeared when people took drugs every day for three years or more.”

The drugs in question are:

“Tricyclic antidepressants for treating depression
Antihistamines used to treat hay-fever and allergies
Antimuscarinics for treating urinary incontinence”

I will post more information on this as it becomes available.

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