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Benzodiazepine use not linked to dementia

Written by | 3 Mar 2016 | All Medical News

by Bruce Sylvester: Benzodiazepine therapy in older adults is not associated with an increase in dementia risk, researchers reported on Feb. 2, 2016 in The BMJ today.

As background, the author noted that other studies of benzodiazepines, which are commonly prescribed among older adults to manage sleep, anxiety and depressive disorders, had suggested that the drugs might be associated with an increased risk of dementia. The findings, however, were not conclusive and were even conflicting.

Under the leadership of Shelly Gray, PharmD, professor of pharmacy at the University of Washington in Seattle, investigators enrolled 3,434 subjects, age 65 and older and without dementia at enrollment. They were tracked for an average of seven years.

The researchers tracked benzodiazepine use by using computerized pharmacy data over a 10 year period.

They performed cognitive screening at baseline and every 2 years.

During follow-up, 797 subjects (23%) developed dementia, and 637 of those who developed dementia  (80%) developed Alzheimer’s disease.

The investigators reported no association between the highest level of benzodiazepine use (about one year of daily use) and dementia or cognitive decline.

“Overall, our results do not support a causal association between benzodiazepine use and dementia,” the authors wrote.

However, they emphasized that since the drugs are associated with many adverse events, “healthcare providers are still advised to avoid benzodiazepines in older adults to prevent important adverse health outcomes, withdrawal and dependence.”

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