Alzheimer's patients at risk of pneumonia from sedative

Common drugs may up pneumonia risk in Alzheimer's patients

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. Alzheimer's patients are often prescribed the sedatives benzodiazepines and non-bensodiazepines known as Z-drugs over a long time period.

To determine if there is a link between such drugs and pneumonia, the researchers looked at data on 49,484 adults diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease between 2005 and 2011 in Finland.

Because benzodiazepines are sedating, it's possible that people taking them may breathe saliva or food into the lungs, increasing the risk of pneumonia, the study authors suggested.

"An increased risk of pneumonia is an important finding to consider in treatment of patients with Alzheimer disease". About two-thirds of the patients were women and the median age was 80.

MONDAY, April 10, 2017 (HealthDay News) - Alzheimer's patients given sedatives such as Valium or Xanax may have an increased risk for pneumonia, a new study warns.

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They identified 5,232 patients who were taking benzodiazepines and 3,269 patients taking Z-drugs and the rest not taking either drug.

She added: "Non-pharmacologic approaches should be the starting point when managing neuropsychiatric symptoms in this patient population, which should help to limit inappropriate use of these drugs". A separately analysis found that the use of benzodiazepines was significantly associated with an increased risk of pneumonia (aHR 1.28, 95% CI: 1.07-1.54) but not for the similarly acting non-benzodiazepines (aHR 1.10, 95% CI: 0.84-1.44).

The study, published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), showed that benzodiazepines were linked to a 30 per cent increased risk of pneumonia in patients with Alzheimer disease, and the risk was highest at the start of treatment (during the first 30 days).

"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.

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