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Study Finds OTC Drugs Linked to Cognitive Risks in Elderly

Kathleen Becker6 months ago

According to new research, common over-the-counter medications may increase the risk of cognitive issues and dementia in elderly patients.

Overview New Over-the-Counter Drug Findings

According to United Press International, many over-the-counter cold medicines and sleep aids were found to be linked to elderly’s cognitive impairment, a recent study suggests.  According to experts, these drugs block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine – it is believed that this action is what links the drugs to cognitive impairment.  

According to a study published in the journal JAMA Neurology, researchers from an Indiana University have found that people with a lower metabolism or a reduced brain size generally are the ones that use anticholinergic drugs.

Drugs for hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can also have anticholinergic effects.

Breakdown of the Over-the-Counter Drug Study

  • Anticholinergic drugs are linked to cognitive impairment in older adults for more than a decade and as little as 60 to 90 days with continued use.
  • The study recruited 451 people with an age bracket of 73.3 years who were already participating in a larger study by the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. 60 of these people were taking at least one drug with medium or high anticholinergic effects.
  • All of the participants that had PET scans to measure brain metabolism and MRIs to measure brain structure, completed cognitive tests of short-term memory, verbal reasoning, planning and problem solving, among other functions.
  • The participants that took anticholinergic drugs were found to perform worse on cognitive tests, had lower glucose metabolism in the hippocampus and overall brain and had lower brain volume and larger cavities inside the brain than normal.


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