Does Your Allergy Medicine Increase Your Risk of Alzheimer’s?
Recently several reports have come out discussing how certain medications might increase the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s in seniors. For many years now the American Geriatrics Society have published a list of medications (BEER’s Criteria) that have greater risks than benefits in patients over the age of 65. These medications can cause cognitive impairment, increase the risk of falls, or have high drug interaction risks. Many insurance companies have now stopped paying for medications on the BEER’s Criteria list in seniors because of the risks.
Many of the medications on this list are in the class of anticholinergics. Basically, these medications produce a drying effect in an effort to stop various conditions where there is excess fluid production (think runny noses, diarrhea, etc). They are also used for other issues such as dizziness, COPD/Asthma, and allergic reactions. This is the class of medications that most seasonal allergy treatments fall into, such as Zyrtec, Claritin, Benadryl, Allegra, etc.
The increased risk of cognitive impairment is thought to be reversible once the medication is stopped. These recent studies have suggested at link between these drugs and dementia. However, they do not prove that these drugs CAUSE dementia. More study is needed to confirm this theory.
If you are over 65, try to avoid allergy medications that have an increased risk of cognitive impairment. Medications such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), hydroxyzine, brompheniramine, and chlorpheniramine should be avoided if possible. Alternatives with a lower risk of this side effect include cetirizine (Zyrtec), fexofenadine (Allegra), levocetirizine (Xyzal) or desloratadine (Clarinex). Loratadine (Claritin) is also an option, but should be avoided in patients who already have dementia or impairment.
Talk to your pharmacist today about the risks associated with your allergy medications!
Your Family Pharmacist,
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