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Commonly used medications associated with impaired physical function in older adults
Date:5/3/2008

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Older adults who take drugs designed to block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine including common medications for incontinence, high blood pressure and allergies are more likely to be dependent in one or more activities of daily living and to walk slower, according to new findings from researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and colleagues.

The findings, which involve a class of drugs known as anticholinergic medications, are from the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study (GEMS) and will be presented at the American Geriatrics Society Meeting in Washington, D.C., on May 3.

These results were true even in older adults who have normal memory and thinking abilities, said Kaycee M. Sink, M.D., M.A.S., lead author. For older adults taking a moderately anticholinergic medication, or two or more mildly anticholinergic medications, their function was similar to that of someone three to four years older.

In a separate study reported this month in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Sink found that older nursing home residents who took medications for dementia and anticholingeric medications for incontinence at the same time had a 50 percent faster decline in function than those who were being treated only for dementia.

Over a years time, the decline would represent a resident going from requiring only limited assistance in an activity to being completely dependent, or from requiring only supervision to requiring extensive assistance in an activity.

Sink said that the two studies together suggest that physicians should carefully consider the implications when prescribing anticholingeric medications to older adults.

Because these medications are so commonly prescribed, older adults who take multiple medications are at increased risk of taking one or more anticholinergic-containing medications, said Sink. The potential effects on physical function represent a significan
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Contact: Karen Richardson
krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4453
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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