NICE – Drugs with anticholinergic effects and the risk of falls

 In Clinical Guidelines, NICE guidelines

Drugs with anticholinergic effects “block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine to inhibit smooth muscle function, such as in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract and urinary tract”. They are used for various conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, overactive bladder, nausea and vomiting, depression and psychosis, and can have adverse side effects.

With side effects ranging from constipation, dry mouth, eyes, urinary retention, confusion and falls, these drugs are potentially problematic for the elderly. Also after long-term use of drugs with anticholinergic effects, the risk of getting dementia is increased.

Current advice on these drug types suggests that anyone who has had a fall or who are at an increased risk of having, fall should have their medication reviewed as a precaution.

Three studies found that using this class of drugs does increase the chances of cognitive impairment, and a further four studies found that olanzapine and trazodone significantly increased the risk of falls.

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