Drugs that have anticholinergic properties treat a wide swath of conditions, many of which are common in older adults; these include asthma, COPD, gastrointestinal disorders, and bladder problems. Anticholinergic drugs are also important therapies for mental disorders; benzodiazepines and tricyclic antidepressants fall into this category.
A team from the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle examined health and pharmacy data from 1,039 cases of pneumonia that occurred among their older, immune, competent patients (65-94) as well as 2,000 healthy controls of the same age and gender composition.
They found that 59% of the pneumonia cases had one or more prescription fills of an anticholinergic 90 days or less before the diagnosis, compared with 35% of the healthy group. The pneumonia group also showed higher chronic anticholinergic use, with 53% of the patients having filled three or more prescriptions over the past year, compared with 36% of the controls.
Members of this research team had recently published another study demonstrating that extended use of anticholinergic medications might increase the risk for dementia in older adults. To learn more, see the Psychiatric News Alert “High Dose and Extended Use of Anticholinergic Drugs May Increase Risk for Dementia, Study Suggests.”