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Drugs pose Alzheimer's psychosis risk

GPs could be prescribing drugs that put patients with Alzheimer's disease at risk of psychosis, say researchers.

Anticholinergic drugs are commonly used for the treatment of cardiovascular disease, COPD or incontinence. But Italian researchers have found that they double the risk of payschosis patients with Alzheimer's disease.

The study, involving nearly 400 outpatients with Alzheimer's disease, found a significant association between psychosis or behavioural disturbances and a number of commonly used anticholinergic medications, including warfarin, theophylline and nifedipine.

Over 70% of patients on two or three anticholineric medications had psychosis.

Professor Robert Howard, professor of old age psychiatry and consultant psychiatrist at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, said no patient with Alzheimer's disease or any kind of cognitive impairment should be given anticholinergic drugs.

‘Quite often I will see people in our outpatient clinic, and they will be on a huge great string of anticholinergic drugs,' he said. ‘When you stop them, people will often improve quite dramatically.'

He recommended GPs should review the medication of patients with Alzheimer's disease and prescribe alternatives that are non-cholinergic.

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