PurposePrevious studies suggest an association between use of anticholinergic drugs in elderly patients and cognitive impairment. However, there are still limited data on the association of anticholinergic drug use and cognitive impairment as well as contribution of individual drugs to anticholinergic load using large, well-documented patient cohorts treated in geriatric units from Europe.
MethodsWe investigated 797,440 prescriptions to 89,579 hospitalized patients treated in geriatric units within the GiB-DAT database. Data of all patients discharged between 1 January 2013 and 30 June 2015 was included. The Anticholinergic Cognitive Burden (ACB) scale was used to classify anticholinergic drugs as definite (score 2 or 3) and possible anticholinergics (score 1). Cognitive function was determined using Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the standardized scale for dementia (4D+S).
ResultsIn two multivariable logistic regression models age, sex, number of drugs and ACB total scores were identified as variables independently associated with cognitive impairment as measured by MMSE (odds ratio per ACB unit 1.114, 95% CI 1.099-1.130) or the diagnosis dementia (odds ratio 1.159 per ACB unit, 95% CI 1.144-1.173, both p < 0.0001). High anticholinergic load was associated with patients with severe cognitive impairment (p < 0.05 for all pairwise comparisons). ACB score 3 anticholinergic drugs contributed 77.9% to the cumulative amount of ACB points in patients with an anticholinergic load of 3 and higher.
ConclusionsUsing a cross-sectional study design, a significant positive association between anticholinergic drug load and cognitive impairment in European patients treated in specialised geriatric units was found. The most frequently used definitve anticholinergic drugs were quetiapine, amitriptyline and carbamazepine.