A study conducted by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UAE) discovered that common over the counter and prescription drugs may increase the risk of dementia and death in the elderly.
The study involved 13,000 people aged 65 and over from across the UK. Researchers analyzed over 80 drugs including antihistamines, anti-depressants, incontinence drugs, blood thinners, painkillers, heartburn medications and eye drops taken for glaucoma.
The drugs were analyzed for a potential side effect called “anticholinergic activity” which affects the brain by blocking a key neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.
The risk for anticholinergic activity increases when taking a combination of the drugs, causing a cumulative effect.
The drugs in question include the antihistamines chlorphenamine (used in Piriton) and promethazine (used in Phenergan), anti-depressants amitriptyline (used in several brands) and paroxetine (used in Seroxat), the incontinence drug oxybutynin (used in Ditropan), the blood thinner warfarin, the heartburn drug ranitidine (used in the brand Zantac), alongside painkiller codeine and timolol maleate eye drops taken for glaucoma.
“This is the first large-scale study into the long-term impact of medicines which block acetylcholine – a common brain neurotransmitter – on humans, and our results show a potentially serious effect on mortality,” said Dr. Chris Fox, clinical senior lecturer at Norwich Medical School, UEA.
It is strongly recommended that patients with any concerns about their OTC or prescription medication consult their pharmacist and/or family physician.