Drugs, such as diphenhydramine, which have an anticholinergic effect, are important medical therapies available by prescription and also are sold over the counter under various brand names such as Benadryl®, Dramamine®, Excederin PM®, Nytol®, Sominex®, Tylenol PM®, and Unisom®.
"The public, physicians, and even the Food and Drug Administration, need to be made aware of the role of these common medications, and others with anticholinergic effects, in causing cognitive impairment. Patients should write down and tell their doctor which over-the-counter drugs they are taking. Doctors, who often think of these medications simply as antihistamines, antidepressants, antihypertensives, sleep aids or even itching remedies, need to recognize their systemic anticholinergic properties and the fact that they appear to impact brain health negatively. Doing so, and prescribing alternative medications, should improve both the health and quality of life of older adults," said senior study author Malaz Boustani, M.D., Indiana University School of Medicine associate professor of medicine, Regenstrief Institute investigator, and research scientist with the IU Center for Aging Research.
"Many medications used for several common disease states have anticholinergic effects that are often unrecognized by prescribers" said Wishard Health Services pharmacist, Noll Campbell, Pharm.D., first author of the study, noting that these drugs are among the most frequently purchased over the counter products. "In fact, 50 percent of the older adult population use a medication with some degree of anticholinergic effect each day."