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Risk of abnormally slow heart rate twice as high in those taking drugs to slow Alzheimer's
Date:10/1/2009

TORONTO, Ont., October 1, 2009 People taking one of several drugs commonly prescribed to treat Alzheimer's disease are more likely to be hospitalized for a potentially serious condition called bradycardia than patients not taking these medications.

Researchers from St. Michael's Hospital and Ontario's Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) analyzed data from 1.4 million people aged 67 and older to see whether the risk for bradycardia was higher for those taking drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors.

Bradycardia is defined as an abnormally slow resting heart rate (under 60 beats per minute). Although it can be asymptomatic, it can also cause fainting, palpitations, shortness of breath, or even death.

"We wanted to see if there was a link between initiation of a cholinesterase inhibitor and subsequent hospitalization for bradycardia," explains lead author Laura Y. Park-Wyllie, a researcher at St. Michael's Hospital .

The three cholinesterase-inhibiting drugs currently approved for use in Canada are donepezil (brand name Aricept); rivastigmine (marketed as Exelon and Exelon Patch); and galantamine (branded Reminyl).

Most of the patients whose records were analyzed for the study had been prescribed donepezil.

The results of the study showed that older patients hospitalized with bradycardia were more than twice as likely to have recently started on a cholinesterase inhibitor such as donepezil for Alzheimer's disease compared to those without bradycardia.

The findings appear in the September 2009 issue of PLoS Medicine, an open-access online medical journal.

The researchers say that as the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia increases, more people aged 65 years and older will be treated with a cholinesterase inhibitor.

"It will be increasingly more important to prescribe these drugs judiciously as they carry a risk of serious adverse
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Contact: Julie Saccone
sacconej@smh.toronto.on.ca
416-864-5047
St. Michael's Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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