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Alzheimer's drug puts patients at increased risk of abnormally slow heart rate: study

According to a new study by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital and Ontario’s Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, patients who initiated cholinesterase inhibitor therapy, generally prescribed for Alzheimer or dementia treatments, are at increased risk for hospitalization for a serious condition called Bradycardia.

Toronto, October 8, 2009

Alzheimer's drug puts patients at increased risk of abnormally slow heart rate: study

According to a new study by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital and Ontario’s Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, patients taking cholinesterase inhibitor therapy, generally prescribed for Alzheimer or dementia treatments, are at increased risk for hospitalization for a serious condition called bradycardia.

This condition is defined as a resting heart rate of fewer than 60 beats per minute. Bradycardia can cause dizziness, shortness of breath, and fainting, although it may not present symptoms in some patients.

The study examined health records of more than 1.4 million adults in Ontario aged 67 and older to see if the risk of bradycardia was higher for patients taking cholinesterase inhibitors.

“We wanted to see if there was a link between initiation of a cholinesterase inhibitor and subsequent hospitalization for bradycardia,” said lead author Laura Y. Park-Wyllie, a researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital.

More than half of the patients who had been hospitalized with bradycardia resumed taking their cholinesterase inhibitor after being discharged.

Cholinesterase inhibitors are commonly used to treat some symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. The benefits of cholinesterase inhibitors for people with Alzheimer’s disease are usually small. The drugs do not reverse the effects of dementia. Research suggests that the drugs delay the worsening of symptoms for about six months to a year, although some patients may benefit more.

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