UK researchers have linked drugs commonly prescribed to half the people over 65 to increased incidence of death and mental decline.
The researchers’ findings, which are being published this month in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, suggest that the side-effects of the drugs have an impact on the brain, increasing the risk of decline and death.
The new study examined 13,000 patients aged 65 or older and focused on drugs which have ‘anticholinergic activity’ – a known potential side effect of many prescription and over the counter drugs which affects the brain by blocking a key neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Each drug taken by the participants was given a ranking based on the strength of its anticholinergic activity, or AntiCholinergic Burden (ACB) — 0 for no effect, 1 for mild effect, 2 for moderate effect and 3 for severe effect. Thus, a patient taking one severe drug and two mild ones would have an overall score of five.
Researchers found that the risk was cumulative, based on the number of drugs taken and the strength of each drug’s effect. The results showed that one in five people taking drugs with a total score of four or more had died by the end of the two-year study, compared with only 7% per cent of those taking no anticholinergic drugs. The study also found that for every additional point scored, the odds of dying increased by 26%.
The groups with the greatest anticholinergic impact included: anti-depressants such as Amitriptyline, Imipramine and Clomipramine; tranquilisers such as Chlorpromazine and Trifluoperazine; bladder medication such as Oxybutynin; and antihistamines such as Chlorphenamine.
Other anticholinergic drugs included: Atenolol, Furosemide and Nifedipine for heart problems; painkillers such as Codeine and Dextropropoxyphene; the asthma treatment Beclometasone;the epilepsy treatment Carbamazepine; and Timolol eyedrops used for glaucoma.
The large cohort study was led by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and is part of the Medical Research Council’s Cognitive Function and Ageing Studies (CFAS) project to find ways of reducing risk factors for dementia, which affects 820,000 people in the UK. Joining the UEA researchers were colleagues at the University of Cambridge, Indiana University and National Health Service clinicians.
Dr Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: "It is very important that we have a clear picture of the side effects of drugs commonly taken by older people with cognitive impairment and other conditions. This robust study provides valuable findings, and must be taken seriously."
Dr Sorensen and other experts cautioned patients to not stop taking their medications without consulting with their doctors. What experts failed to report was that naturopathic and integrative medicine doctors can often help wean patients off mainstream medicine and replace unnatural drugs with natural items and healthy diet and lifestyle changes.
Over 95% of all prescribed and over the counter medications have side effects – and once you combine two or more of them you essentially become a living (or dying) experiment, since virtually no studies exist for the safety of multiple drug combinations. The more drugs you take, the more the side effects are likely to lead to other conditions requiring still more drugs in a never ending cycle which is a great model for profits for the pharmaceutical industry, but a horrible one for healing and humanity.
As noted alternative health figure Jon Barron observed, by the time a male reaches sixty-five years of age in the US, he takes an average of 15 prescribed and over the counter drugs every day. And to think that in most instances his problems all began with one or two conditions, which could have been addressed naturally.
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