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Anti-anxiety medications linked to Alzheimer’s disease

Long-term use of a class of medications commonly used to treat anxiety and sleep problems may be linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study found.

Researchers in France and Canada looked at health insurance data to track nearly 1,800 patients over age 66 in Quebec diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and who were prescribed benzodiazepines — known by brand names like Xanax or Valium — over a six-year period. They compared those patients to more than 7,000 healthy older adults.

Those who had taken benzodiazepines for three months or more had up to a 51 percent increased risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease compared to elderly people who never took the medication. The longer a person took benzodiazepines, the higher their risk of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, the study found. The risk was greatest among those who used the long-acting version of the medication.

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The findings suggest that people prescribed benzodiazepines should take them for as short of time as possible in compliance with their physician, the researchers wrote.

BOTTOM LINE: Long-term use of a class of medications commonly used to treat anxiety and sleep problems may be linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

CAUTIONS: The study cannot prove a cause-and-effect relationship between benzodiazepine use and the development of Alzheimer’s.

WHERE TO FIND IT: British Medical Journal, Sept. 9

Kidney failure patients concerned about transplant, study finds

Some kidney failure patients are concerned about getting a kidney transplant, even though it is a potentially life-saving procedure, a new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health found.

The researchers surveyed 348 adults who were undergoing dialysis at dialysis centers across Baltimore between 2009 and 2012 about their attitudes concerning kidney transplants. Nearly 70 percent of respondents cited that their top concern was that they were improving with dialysis and might find undergoing a transplant unnecessary. Nearly 30 percent said they would be uncomfortable asking someone to donate a kidney.

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Older adults and women were among the most concerned about kidney transplants, the study found. Those who said they had never seen a kidney specialist were most likely to list concerns, and those with concerns were less likely to be placed on a transplant list.

Based on the study findings, patients who are undergoing treatment for kidney failure should be better educated about the benefits and risks of their treatment options, including transplants, the researchers wrote.

BOTTOM LINE: Some kidney failure patients are concerned about getting a kidney transplant, even though it is a potentially life-saving procedure.

CAUTIONS: The study population was limited to one city also relied on self-reported answers, so the findings may not apply to a wider group.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, Sept. 11 LARA SALAHI