Intended for healthcare professionals


Anticholinergic effects of common drugs are associated with increased mortality in over 65s

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 28 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d4037
  1. Ingrid Torjesen
  1. 1London

The combined anticholinergic effects of many common drugs increase the risk of cognitive impairment and death in people aged over 65, a large scale study of the long term effect of drugs on health has found.

Taking just two drugs with anticholinergic effects, such as some drugs for heart disease, antihistamines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and even warfarin, can treble the risk of death in the over 65s. Doctors have been advised to assess the combined anticholinergic burden of all drugs that a patient is taking—prescribed drugs and those bought over the counter—before prescribing any additional ones. GPs have also been reminded of the importance of regularly reviewing patients’ drugs.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society on Friday (, looked at the prescribed drugs and drugs bought over the counter taken by more than 13 000 people aged over 65 in the …

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