Alzheimer Disease Risk Linked to Use of Benzodiazepines, Related Z-drugs

The use of benzodiazepines and related z-drugs was found to be associated with a modest increase in the risk of Alzheimer disease in a case-control trial.

The use of benzodiazepines and related z-drugs (BZDRs) was found to be associated with a modest increase in the risk of Alzheimer disease in a case-control trial.

Findings revealed an adjusted odds ratio (OR) of 1.06 (95% CI, 1.04 to 1.08) of a patient developing Alzheimer after exposure to benzodiazepines. Additionally, a dose-response relationship was observed with both cumulative consumption and duration, but that relationship was removed by adjustment for other psychotropics.

In the nationwide, nested study of all Finnish community-dwelling people with a clinically verifiable Alzheimer diagnosis (n = 70,719) from 2005 to 2011 and a matched control group (n = 282,862), a research team led by Vesa Tapiainen, MD, from the School of Pharmacy at the University of Eastern Finland, in Kuopio, assessed the association between Alzheimer and the use of these sedative therapies. The average time for exposure assessment was 8.7 years (standard deviation [SD], 2.0), ranging from 5 years to 11.9 years.

“Even though the association between BZDR use and Alzheimer's disease was small in this study, BZDRs should be avoided when possible and [the] threshold for prescribing should be high enough due to their overall adverse effect profile,” Tapiainen and colleagues noted.

The team found that the use of any BZDRs was more common in the case group (40.2%) than the control group (37.0%), due to a more common use of BZDRs. The case group was also more likely to have used both benzodiazepines (21.4% vs. 20%) and z-drugs (7.6% vs. 7.3%), or short-, medium-, and long-acting BZDRs (12.6% vs. 10.9%).

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