A group of widely used drugs available over-the-counter and on prescription could be linked to the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s in older adults, a US study has found.i
Dr Shannon L. Risacher and his colleagues believe they have found a link between prolonged use of drugs, known as anticholinergics and increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Anticholinergic drugs sold in New Zealand include antihistamines: Phenergen, Clarityn, Loratadine, and Levrix and asthma and COPD reliever medications Atrovent and Spiriva.
The new findings add to a growing list of side effects linked to long-term use of antihistamines. For example, long-term use of nasal steroids raises the risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma in later life.ii iii A 2014 Cochrane review found that corticosteroid preventer medications for asthma have been shown to stunt development in children.iv
Antihistamines, steroid nasal sprays and topical steroid creams only suppress the symptoms and like all medications have side effects. And if that wasn't enough, a 2010 study found a link between regular use of antihistamines and weight gain.v
As with all prescription medications, you should consult your doctor before considering any changes. However, given the research evidence, physicians and their patients might want to consider natural alternatives to managing disorders like hay fever.
Read about a natural way to relieve 'hay fever hell' »
Hay fever - a natural remedy »
Hay fever drugs 'could reduce brain size and increase risk of dementia and Alzheimer's »
Independent 20 April 2016
Hay fever drugs may shrink brain and raise dementia risk, warn scientists »
UK Telegraph 18 April 2016
i Risacher, SL JAMA Neurol. 2016
ii Wang JJ et al Ophthalmology 2009
iii Nootheti S, Bielory L.Compr Ophthalmol Update. 2006
iv Zhang L, Prietsch SOM, Ducharme FM Cochrane Review 2014
v Ratcliff J, et al Obesity 2010
First posted 20 April 2016 and updated September 2023