ISLAMABAD: Sleeping tablets and anxiety drugs taken by millions of people have been linked with Alzheimer’s disease, researchers warn.
Common sleeping tablets and anxiety drugs taken by millions of patients has been linked to a 50 per cent increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers have found.
Taking the drugs known as benzodiazepines, which include diazepam and lorazepam, for three months or more was linked with a greater chance of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease five years later, The Telegraph Reported.
At least six million prescriptions were issued for the drugs in England last year and the researchers said the findings are important because of the large numbers of older people taking the medicines.
Researchers behind the study described the findings as being of “major importance for public health”.
They warned that although it cannot be definitively proven that the drugs are causing Alzheimer’s there is a strong ‘suspicion of possible direct causation’.
The drugs should be not be taken for more than three months in light of these findings, the researchers said.
However, other experts said the results may reflect that people who are already in the early stages of Alzheimer’s are often treated for sleep problems and anxiety and this is confusing the findings.
“It is now crucial to encourage physicians to carefully balance the benefits and risks when initiating or renewing a treatment with benzodiazepines and related products in elderly patients.”
They found that past use of benzodiazepines was associated with a 51 percent increased risk fo Alzheimer’s disease. The link was stronger with longer exposure to the drugs or use of long-acting versions of the medicines.
Dr Liz Coulthard, Consultant Senior Lecturer in Dementia Neurology at University of Bristol, said: “This work provides yet another reason to avoid prescription of benzodiazepines for anything other than very short term relief of insomnia or anxiety.”
This report comes the day before the G7 Global Dementia Legacy Event in Canada where leaders will discuss how we tackle dementia through research.
There are currently 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and with so few drugs available to treat Alzheimer’s disease, these findings show the need for us to look at how we might change prescription habits to reduce people’s risk of developing dementia.
The finding that benzodiazepine exposure is associated with the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease five years or more later could mean that the drugs cause the disease, but is more likely to mean that the drugs are being given to people who are already ill.
In other words, we are seeing an association, rather than a cause.