St Michael logoA slow heart rate, generally less than 60 beats per minute is known as bradycardia. This condition may cause fainting, palpitations, shortness of breath, or even death. Now a new study claims that old people who are hospitalized for this condition i.e. bradycardia, apparently have been consuming cholinesterase-inhibiting drugs like donepezil.

It is alleged that people taking one of the various drugs prescribed to treat Alzheimer’s disease supposedly have more chances to be hospitalized for a potentially grave condition called bradycardia as compared to patients who are not taking these medications.

Data from about 1.4 million aged 67 and older was examined by study experts from St. Michael’s Hospital and Ontario’s Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES). They wanted to observe whether the threat of bradycardia was more for those taking drugs like cholinesterase inhibitors.

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

Donepezil, the brand name is Aricept; rivastigmine marketed as Exelon and Exelon Patch; and galantamine, the brand name Reminyl are the three cholinesterase-inhibiting drugs which are presently approved for use in Canada.

Majority of the patients whose records were examined for the study apparently had been prescribed donepezil. The outcome of the study illustrated that older patients hospitalized with bradycardia were more than twice as likely to have recently started on a cholinesterase inhibitor such as donepezil for Alzheimer’s disease compared to those without bradycardia.

The experts mention that as the frequency of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia rises, more people aged 65 years and older could be treated with a cholinesterase inhibitor.

Park-Wyllie mentioned, “It will be increasingly more important to prescribe these drugs judiciously as they carry a risk of serious adverse events. 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.”

More than half of the patients who had been hospitalized with bradycardia apparently restarted consuming their cholinesterase inhibitor after being discharged.

“Our study provides evidence of the potential adverse effect of cholinesterase inhibitors on heart rate. Health professionals need to reassess the merits of continued therapy in patients who develop bradycardia while taking these drugs,” mentioned, Park-Wyllie.

Cholinesterase inhibitors are alleged to be generally prescribed to postpone the progression of symptoms like confusion and long-term memory loss in people suffering from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

It is apparently known that individuals with dementia are apparently inclined to have lesser levels of a brain chemical known as acetylcholine. Side effects like diarrhea, muscle cramps and abnormally slow heartbeat may be associated with rising levels of acetylcholine in the body.

The advantages of cholinesterase inhibitors for people with Alzheimer’s disease are apparently not much. The drug supposedly does not undo the effects of dementia. Another study proposes that in about half of the patients, the drug postpones the deterioration of symptoms for between six months to a year, even though a marginal amount of patients may gain more.

The findings appear in the issue of PLoS Medicine, an open-access online medical journal.