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Benzodiazepine Use Linked to Increased Alzheimer's Risk

Increased strength of association observed with exposure density, drug half-life

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 10, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Benzodiazepine use is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease, with exposure density correlating with increased strength of association, according to a study published online Sept. 9 in BMJ.

Sophie Billioti de Gage, from the Université de Bordeaux in France, and colleagues examined the correlation between Alzheimer's disease risk and exposure to benzodiazepines started at least five years earlier. Data were collected from the Quebec health insurance program database for 1,796 people with a first diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease who were followed for at least six years and for 7,184 controls matched for sex, age group, and duration of follow-up.

The researchers found that benzodiazepine ever use correlated with increased risk of Alzheimer's disease (adjusted odds ratio, 1.51); the correlation persisted with further adjustment for anxiety, depression, and insomnia (odds ratio, 1.43). There was no correlation seen for a cumulative dose of <91 prescribed daily doses; exposure density was correlated with increased strength of association (odds ratio, 1.32 for 91 to 180 prescribed daily doses and 1.84 for >180 prescribed daily doses). The strength of association increased with drug half-life (odds ratio, 1.43 for short-acting drugs and 1.7 for long-acting drugs).

"Benzodiazepine use is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease," the authors write. "Unwarranted long term use of these drugs should be considered as a public health concern."

Two authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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