Anticholinergic drugs may increase risk of dementia

New research has suggested a link between taking anticholinergic medications and an increased risk of developing dementia. These drugs are old and are now rarely used for Parkinson’s. 

New research published in the British Medical Journal this week has revealed a link between some classes of anticholinergic drugs and the development of dementia.

This research has been reported in the media including by BBC News, the Independent and The Times and some have mentioned that these medications are sometimes used to treat Parkinson's.

The drugs that are commonly used to treat Parkinson's - such as levodopa and dopamine agonists - have not been linked to dementia.

Anticholinergic drugs and Parkinson's

These drugs are old and are now rarely used for Parkinson's. Sometimes they are prescribed for reducing tremor and muscle stiffness.

One of the reasons that these medications are not often given to people with Parkinson's is because they can cause memory problems or make them worse.

Anyone with Parkinson's who is taking anticholinergics should be carefully monitored by their specialist or Parkinson's nurse.

What if I am taking anticholinergics?

You should consult your specialist or Parkinson's nurse before making any change to your treatment or medication. 

Link between drugs and dementia still unclear

 Professor David Dexter, Deputy Research Director at Parkinson's UK, comments:

"The research published this week shows us that there is a link between anticholinergic drugs and dementia but it does not tell us why. It could be that people who are in the very early stages of dementia are more likely to be prescribed these drugs for other reasons.

"It's also important to point that other factors – such as unhealthy lifestyles – have a far greater impact on risk of dementia."