Sydney Pharmacy lecturer studies link between Alzheimer's and high-risk drug classes

20 February 2014

Exposure to high-risk drug classes is associated with higher rates of hospitalization and mortality in older people with Alzheimer’s disease, research by the University of Sydney has found.

Sydney Pharmacy School
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The research paper, published in PLoS ONE journal, was authored by Dr Danijela Gnjidic, Lecturer and NHMRC Early Career Fellow from the Faculty of Pharmacy at University of Sydney.
Dr Gnijdic said that older people with and without Alzheimer’s disease that are treated with high-risk drug classes, including a range of sedative and anticholinergic drugs, are more likely to be hospitalized and die than older people not treated with these drugs.
“The study revealed that increased cumulative exposure to anticholinergic and sedative drugs was associated with higher rates of hospitalization and mortality over one year in both people with and without Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr Gnjidic said.
“We found that fifty-one per cent of people with Alzheimer’s disease were exposed to drugs with anticholinergic and sedative effects, compared to thirty-three percent of people without Alzheimer’s disease.”
Anticholinergic drugs are commonly used to treat asthma, incontinence, gastrointestinal cramps, and muscular spasms, and sedative drugs are prescribed for depression and sleep disorders.
“The study adds to the growing international body of evidence that the drug side effects are a leading cause of preventable hospitalization among older people,” Dr Gnjidic said.
Population-based research suggests that older people continue to take drugs with an unfavorable risk to benefit ratio.
“The study highlights the need for health practitioners and consumers to work together to implement evidence-based strategies to prevent and detect drug-related problems, particularly in older people with Alzheimer’s disease,” she said.
Dr Gnjidic’s research was supported by a grant from Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation.

Bachelor of Pharmacy Program at the University of Sydney

The Bachelor of Pharmacy requires four years of full-time study. There are two semesters and one entry period per year. Major topics studied include chemical, physical, pharmaceutical and pharmacological properties of medicines and the application of these in the practice of pharmacy.
Program: Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm)
Location: Sydney, New South Wales
Semester intake: February
Duration: 4 years
Application deadline: TBC by the faculty. In past intakes, the application deadline for this program was the last working day of September.

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