You can find out more about NPF's National Medical Director, Dr. Michael S. Okun, by also visiting the NPF Center of Excellence, University of Florida Health Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration. Dr. Okun is also the author of the Amazon #1 Parkinson's Best Seller 10 Secrets to a Happier Life.
Parkinson’s disease patients frequently struggle to identify drug therapies that can address bothersome symptoms such as sleep dysfunction, bladder urgency, drooling, and tremor. Many of the drug therapies such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Advil PM, Alleve PM, common antihistamines, and others pills are readily available over the counter and do not require a prescription. These medications block a cholinergic receptor in the brain, and can improve many Parkinson’s disease symptoms. However, the price of taking these drugs may be steep (thinking problems, confusion, unsteadiness and even falling). An older French study of hospitalized Parkinson’s disease patients revealed that though 46% of all demented patients were confused, 93% on anticholinergic therapy had delirium and confusion when in the hospital (Agid et. al.). Deficiencies of the chemical acetylcholine have been reported to underpin thinking issues and shortages of the chemical have been observed in the brainstem, hippocampus, and cortex of Parkinson’s disease patients. Though anticholinergic use can result in drowsiness, dry mouth, urinary retention, memory problems as well as constipation, many patients find these therapies useful. In this month’s What’s Hot column we will address the short and long-term potential side effects of using of anti-cholinergic medications in Parkinson’s disease.
Cooper and colleagues in 1992 addressed thinking ability in a group of 82 freshly diagnosed and untreated Parkinson’s disease patients. The patients in this study were all randomized to receive levodopa (Sinemet), bromocriptine (a dopamine agonist) or an anticholinergic drug. Though all three treatments improved motor performance, the anticholinergic drugs produced memory impairments. Many subsequent studies including the National Parkinson Foundation QII prospective study have confirmed these findings.
Perry and colleagues in 2003 investigated the idea that blocking brain acetylcholine receptors could lead to more “Alzheimer’s changes” in the Parkinson’s disease brain. Interestingly, the researchers reported that an important marker of Alzheimer’s disease, the amyloid plaque density, was present in more than double the concentration in Parkinson’s disease patients treated with long-term anticholinergic therapy. Another marker of Alzheimer’s disease, the neurofibrillary tangle, was also more prominent in the brains of those taking anticholinergic drugs.
The most recent worrisome evidence surrounding anticholinergic therapy is drawn from an article in a recent issue of JAMA Internal Medicine written by pharmacist Shelly Gray. The authors utilized data from the Adult Changes in Thought Study. The investigation was based in Washington state and had an impressive 3434 people enrolled who were 65 years or older. All study participants were screened at inclusion to be sure there was no evidence for dementia. The authors cleverly used computerized pharmacy data to assess each participant’s exposure to anticholinergic drugs. The most common anticholinergic drugs were old-fashioned tricyclic antidepressants (TCA’s), antihistamines, and also drugs used for bladder and sleep. The patients were followed for 7 years and the data revealed that over 20% were shown to develop dementia. Participants who took anticholinergic drugs for three years or more had a greater than 50% higher dementia risk. Also, a higher cumulative dose of anticholinergic drugs increased the risk for dementia when compared to those taking anticholinergic drugs for 90 days or less.
The bottom line for Parkinson’s disease patients is that there should be a greater awareness of the short and the long-term potential side effects of anticholinergic therapy. Short-term, Parkinson’s disease patients should be aware that anticholinergics may precipitate drowsiness, dry mouth, urinary retention, memory problems, blurry vision, and constipation as well as a host of other side effects. Long-term, there is an increased risk of dementia. It is important for Parkinson’s disease patients to routinely review medication lists with both a doctor and a pharmacist and to try to identify other medication alternatives.
Some practical suggestions include:
- Identify alternative antidepressants with less anticholinergic effects
- Watch out for over the counter drugs like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and antihistamines
- Dopamine agonists, levodopa, and deep brain stimulation can all potentially be used for difficult to control tremor instead of anticholinergics
- Botulinuma toxin injections can be employed for drooling and for some cases of bladder dysfunction
- Sometimes atropine drops under the tongue or chewing gum can be employed for drooling issues
- A type of physical therapy referred to as pelvic floor rehabilitation can be helpful for bladder retraining in those with urinary frequency
- If hospitalized be sure the doctors do not use anticholinergics for sleep or bladder dysfunction
- Parkinson’s disease patients and their interdisciplinary care teams can usually work together to reduce or to eliminate anticholinergic drug use
- Cooper JA, Sagar HJ, Doherty SM, Jordan N, Tidswell P, Sullivan EV. Different effects of dopaminergic and anticholinergic therapies on cognitive and motor function in Parkinson's disease. A follow-up study of untreated patients. Brain. 1992 Dec;115 ( Pt 6):1701-25. PubMed PMID: 1486457.
- Perry EK, Kilford L, Lees AJ, Burn DJ, Perry RH. Increased Alzheimer pathology in Parkinson's disease related to antimuscarinic drugs. Ann Neurol. 2003 Aug;54(2):235-8. PubMed PMID: 12891676.
- Bédard MA, Pillon B, Dubois B, Duchesne N, Masson H, Agid Y. Acute and long-term administration of anticholinergics in Parkinson's disease: specific effects on the subcortico-frontal syndrome. Brain Cogn. 1999 Jul;40(2):289-313. PubMed PMID: 10413563.
- Gray SL, Anderson ML, Dublin S, Hanlon JT, Hubbard R, Walker R, Yu O, Crane PK, Larson EB. Cumulative use of strong anticholinergics and incident dementia: a prospective cohort study. JAMA Intern Med. 2015 Mar;175(3):401-7. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7663. PubMed PMID: 25621434; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4358759.
- Faulkner MA. Safety overview of FDA-approved medications for the treatment of the motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2014 Aug;13(8):1055-69. doi: 10.1517/14740338.2014.931369. Epub 2014 Jun 24. Review. PubMed PMID: 24962891.
- Sakakibara R. [Cognitive adverse effects of anticholinergic medication for overactive bladder in PD/DLB]. Rinsho Shinkeigaku. 2013;53(11):1389-92. Review. Japanese. PubMed PMID: 24292000.
- Campbell NL, Boustani MA. Adverse cognitive effects of medications: turning attention to reversibility. JAMA Intern Med. 2015 Mar;175(3):408-9. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7667. PubMed PMID: 25622111; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4346513.
- Mate KE, Kerr KP, Pond D, Williams EJ, Marley J, Disler P, Brodaty H, Magin PJ. Impact of multiple low-level anticholinergic medications on anticholinergic load of community-dwelling elderly with and without dementia. Drugs Aging. 2015 Feb;32(2):159-67. doi: 10.1007/s40266-014-0230-0. PubMed PMID: 25566958.
- Kalisch Ellett LM, Pratt NL, Ramsay EN, Barratt JD, Roughead EE. Multiple anticholinergic medication use and risk of hospital admission for confusion or dementia. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014 Oct;62(10):1916-22. doi: 10.1111/jgs.13054. Epub 2014 Oct 3. PubMed PMID: 25284144.
- Kidd AC, Musonda P, Soiza RL, Butchart C, Lunt CJ, Pai Y, Hameed Y, Fox C, Potter JF, Myint PK. The relationship between total anticholinergic burden (ACB) and early in-patient hospital mortality and length of stay in the oldest old aged 90 years and over admitted with an acute illness. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2014 Jul-Aug;59(1):155-61. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2014.01.006. Epub 2014 Feb 5. PubMed PMID: 24582945.
- Dubois B, Pilon B, Lhermitte F, Agid Y. Cholinergic deficiency and frontal dysfunction in Parkinson's disease. Ann Neurol. 1990 Aug;28(2):117-21. PubMed PMID: 2221841.
- Dubois B, Danzé F, Pillon B, Cusimano G, Lhermitte F, Agid Y. Cholinergic-dependent cognitive deficits in Parkinson's disease. Ann Neurol. 1987 Jul;22(1):26-30. PubMed PMID: 3631918.
- Dubois B, Ruberg M, Javoy-Agid F, Ploska A, Agid Y. A subcortico-cortical cholinergic system is affected in Parkinson's disease. Brain Res. 1983 Dec 12;288(1-2):213-8. PubMed PMID: 6661617.
Posted: 6/1/2015 3:00:00 AM by
Browse current and archived What's Hot in PD? articles, the National Parkinson Foundation's monthly blog for people with Parkinson's written by our National Medical Director, Dr. Michael S. Okun.
What to tell Parkinson’s patients about diet and taking statin drugs
Everything a Parkinson’s Disease Patient Needs to Know About the New Dopamine Pump
Tips for Parkinson’s Disease Patients Switching from Sinemet or Madopar to Rytary (IPX066)
More Evidence Linking Gut Bacteria to Parkinson’s Disease: A Guide for Patients
Two New Therapies for Parkinson’s Disease Patients to get Excited About: Vaccines and Monoclonal Antibodies
The Importance of a Monitoring Strategy When Prescribing Dopamine Agonists: Lessons from the National Parkinson Foundation Data
Is Midlife Migraine Related to Late Life Parkinson’s Disease?
Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinson’s Disease: NPF Congratulates Mahlon DeLong and Alim-Louis Benabid and Looks to a Bright Future in Human Neural-Network Modulation
Everything You Need to Know About Medical Marijuana and Parkinson’s Disease
The End for Levodopa Phobia: New Study Shows Sinemet is a Safe Initial Therapy for Treatment of Parkinson's Disease
Is light therapy a potential treatment modality in Parkinson’s disease?
How does the most common genetic cause of Parkinson’s Disease (LRRK2) cause Parkinson’s disease and could it be used to help develop a better therapy?
An Update on DAT Scanning for Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis
Could Northera (Droxidopa) Be an Alternative Treatment for Low Blood Pressure and Passing Out Symptoms?
The Dream of a Pill Free Existence and the Continuous Dopaminergic Pump for the Treatment of Parkinson's Disease
Should I take Inosine to Raise my Uric Acid Levels and Treat my Parkinson’s Disease?
Could Fungus and Mold be an Important Contributor to Parkinson’s Disease?
Pimavanserin and the Hope for a Better Drug for Hallucinations and Psychosis in Parkinson’s Disease
Halting of the Creatine Study
The Importance of Identifying and Treating Caregiver Strain
Putting Parkinson’s Disease Information into the Palm of Your Hand: Parkinson’s Enters the Smartphon
What Parkinson’s Disease Patients Need to Know about H. Pylori Gastrointestinal Infections
A2A Receptor Antagonists and Parkinson’s Disease Treatment
Another Setback for Trophic Factor Treatment in Parkinson's Disease
IPX066 and What Patients Really Want in New Carbidopa/Levodopa (Sinemet) Formulations
The Weather Forecast for Parkinson’s Disease Calls for Worldwide Economic Storm
Defeating the Barriers to Implementing Exercise Regimens in Parkinson’s Disease Patients
When should you start medication therapy for Parkinson’s disease?
Neurologist Care Reduces Hospitalizations in Parkinson's Disease
A Victory in Court for Parkinson's Disease Patients who Require Ongoing Rehabilitative Therapies
Given the recent FDA announcement about Mirapex (pramipexole), should I be worried about dopamine agonists?
What about the new Parkinson’s Disease Vaccine? What should I know?
Caffeine as a Potential Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease
Time to Consider GPi DBS for Parkinson’s Disease: A Shift in the Practice of Patient Selection for DBS
A New Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease-Related Constipation
Too Many Pills: Improving Delivery Systems for Parkinson’s Disease Drugs
Measuring Quality and Assessing Depression in Parkinson's Disease
Watch out for Unexpected Obstacles if You Use a Cueing Strategy to Break Freezing of Gait in Parkinson’s Disease
Pill Color, Generic Medications and Insurance Issues: Important Medication-Related Tips for the Parkinson’s Disease Patient
Are Blood Tests for Parkinson’s Disease on the Horizon?
Placing Stem Cells in Animal Models of Parkinson’s Disease: Another Important Step
Important News for the Parkinson’s Disease Community: More Evidence that Sinemet and Madopar are Not Toxic and do Not Accelerate Disease Progression
The Case for All Parkinson’s Disease Patients to be Co-managed by a Primary Care-Neurologist Team
Scientists say Research on Brain Proteins Involved in Parkinson’s Disease is “Shaping” Up
Who Actually Takes Care of Most of the Parkinson’s Patients Worldwide: The Need for Education and the Parkinson’s Toolkit
If you are Dizzy or Passing Out, it could be Your Parkinson’s Disease or Parkinson’s Disease Medications
How Will Group Visits for Parkinson’s Disease Fit into the Future of Parkinson’s Disease Care?
Why Patients Should be Wary of Chelation Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease
Opening the Door to Gene Therapy in Parkinson’s Disease: The Need for Refinement of the Technology and Approach
Does it Matter if I Can’t Get Brand Sinemet?
Should I get a DaTscan or PET scan to confirm my diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease?
A Critical Reappraisal of the Worst Drugs in Parkinson’s Disease
Environmental Risks for PD: Manganese, Welding, Mining, and Parkinsonism
Calling for the FDA to Revise the Eight Sinemet a Day Rule
Dry Cleaning Solvents and Potential Environmental Risks for Developing Parkinson’s Disease
Maintaining the Balance: Why Parkinson’s Disease Patients Need to Understand Drug Recalls, Withdrawals, and Safety Alerts
Shining a Light on Parkinson’s Disease: Optogenetics Has a Bright Future in Research
Poor Medication Management of Parkinson's Disease During Hospital Admissions: Patients and Families Can Improve Their Hospital-Based Management
Why Are Patches and Continuous Release Technology a Big Deal to Parkinson's?
Is the PD SURG Trial Another Surge Forward for DBS Therapy?
Cycling in PD in Those Who Can’t Walk: Is it Possible?
New iPS Stem Cells for PD: What Does it Mean?
Time for Comprehensive Care Networks for PD
Is Parkinson's Disease a Prion Disease?
Parkinson's Disease Linked to Gaucher's Disease
Brain Cells Keep Time Stamps: Implications for Parkinson's Disease Therapies
Is it Safe to Have an MRI with a DBS in Place?
Take Care of Your Bones as They Are Affected in Parkinson's Disease (Even in Men)
Is it Time to Start Paying Attention to Pain Symptoms in Parkinson's Disease Patients?
Glutathione Fails to Demonstrate Significant Improvement in PD Symptoms
Keeping an Eye on Trials Important to the Parkinson's Disease Patient
Increased Risk of Melanoma in Parkinson's Disease
Finally a DBS Expert Consensus Statement Aimed at Their True Customers: The Patients
Pesticides and Environmental Exposure in Parkinson's disease: Should We Stay Away From the Stink Truck?
Is Exercise Effective Treatment and Protection Against PD?
Why are Transplant Trials Struggling to Succeed in the Treatment of PD?
Are Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors Disease Modifying or Neuroprotective in PD?
Update on Gene Therapy for Parkinson's Disease