Common Drugs May Be Linked to Cognition

INDIANAPOLIS, July 14 (UPI) — A common group of drugs widely sold over-the-counter and by prescription have been linked to losses in cognition in African-Americans, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers from Indiana University School of Medicine, the Regenstrief Institute and Wishard Health Services say the medications — known as anti-cholinergics, which block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter — are sold under various brand names such as Benadryl, Dramamine, Excedrin PM, Nytol, Sominex, Tylenol PM, Unisom, Paxil, Detrol and Demerol. The drugs are commonly used by older adults to aid sleep and to relieve bladder leakage.

“We found that taking one anti-cholinergic significantly increased an individual’s risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and taking two of these drugs doubled this risk,” first author Noll Campbell of Wishard says in a statement. “This is very significant in a population — African-Americans — already known to be at high risk for developing cognitive impairment.”

Campbell and colleagues conducted a six-year observational study of 1,652 Indianapolis-area African-Americans age 70 and older with normal cognitive function when the study began. In addition to monitoring cognition, the investigators tracked all participants’ over-the-counter and prescription medications.

Dr. Malaz Boustani of the Indiana School of Medicine and a Regenstrief Institute investigator noted taking anti-cholinergics was linked with mild cognitive impairment, but not with Alzheimer’s disease, which raises the possibility anti-cholinergic-induced cognitive impairment may be reversible.

The findings are published in the journal Neurology.

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