Potentially important development regarding Alzheimer's care

Seniors receiving Alzheimer's care should know that one of the drugs that's commonly prescribed to treat the disease could lead to a serious condition.

Researchers from St. Michael's Hospital and Ontario's Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences have discovered that the risk for bradycardia could be higher for individuals taking cholinesterase inhibitors, which are used to treat Alzheimer's disease.

Potentially important development regarding Alzheimer's care

People who experience bradycardia have an abnormally slow heart rate. Though some people with a slow rate might show no symptoms, bradycardia can manifest itself in others through fainting and shortness of breath.

"It will be increasingly more important to prescribe these drugs judiciously as they carry a risk of serious adverse events," said Laura Park-Wyllie, a researcher at St. Michael's. "A careful clinical evaluation is required before and after initiating these drugs, and they should only be continued when there is a definite positive response."

Park-Wyllie says clinicians underestimate the dangers of dementia drugs. Over 50 percent of patients who have been hospitalized due to bradycardia still take their cholinesterase inhibitors. Three of these are branded Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl.

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