Common sedatives may up risk of pneumonia in Alzheimer's patients

Washington D.C. [USA], April 10 (ANI): Commonly used sedatives, prescribed to patients with Alzheimer's disease, may be injurious, as a study finds that these drugs may increase the risk pneumonia.

According to researchers, sedatives called benzodiazepines are associated with an increased risk of pneumonia, when used in people with Alzheimer's disease.

The findings, published in Canadian Medical Association Journal, indicated that benzodiazepines were linked to a 30 percent increased risk of pneumonia in patients with Alzheimer's disease, and the risk was highest at the start of treatment (during the first 30 days).

"An increased risk of pneumonia is an important finding to consider in treatment of patients with Alzheimer disease," writes Dr Heidi Taipale from the University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland.

"Benzodiazepines and Z-drugs are frequently prescribed for this population, and long-term use is typical. Pneumonia often leads to admission to hospital, and patients with dementia are at increased risk of death related to pneumonia," Taipale added.

Dementia, of which 60 to 70 percent of cases are Alzheimer's disease, is a risk factor for pneumonia and many people with dementia are prescribed benzodiazepines and non- benzodiazepines (called Z-drugs), both of which have sedative effects.

The team looked at a data of 49, 484 adults, living in the community diagnosed with Alzheimer disease, between 2005 and 2011 in Finland.

The mean age of participants was 80 years and almost two-thirds (62.7 percent) were women.

They matched 5,232 patients taking benzodiazepines and 3269 patients taking Z-drugs, with the remainder not taking either drug.

The authors suggest that the sedative nature of benzodiazepines may increase the risk of pneumonia by increasing the aspiration of saliva or food into the lungs.

"Benefits and risks of the use of benzodiazepines should be carefully considered for patients with Alzheimer disease and include risk of pneumonia," the authors conclude.

"Is a good reminder to clinicians to 'first do no harm' when prescribing these drugs for frail older women and men with dementia," said Dr Paula Rochon, from the University of Toronto. (ANI)