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A study links the long-term use of some drugs with a higher risk of dementia. In England, 1.5 to two million people are likely to be taking anticholinergics for depression, Parkinson's and bladder problems. University of East Anglia researchers found more cases of dementia in patients prescribed larger quantities of particular anticholinergics.
But experts said patients should not stop taking them, as their benefits may outweigh any risk.
The study found no risk with other anticholinergic medicines used to treat common conditions such as hay fever, travel sickness and stomach cramps.
The research, funded by Alzheimer's Society and published in the British Medical Journal, looked at the medical records of 40,770 patients aged from 65 to 99 with a diagnosis of dementia between April 2006 and July 2015 and compared them with those of 283,933 people without dementia.
It also analysed more than 27 million prescriptions - making it the biggest study of its kind into the long-term impact of anticholinergic drugs in relation to dementia.
Dementia Research national director Prof Martin Rossor said: "It is important to be cautious about associations as they do not prove causation."
Alzheimer's Research UK research director Dr Carol Routledge said: "The study didn't investigate what might cause this link between anticholinergics and dementia risk, and researchers will need to build on these findings in future studies."
Rob Howard, professor of old age psychiatry at University College London, said: "It is possible that use of some of these drugs may have actually been to treat the very earliest symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, which can be associated with low mood and lower urinary tract infections, many years before the development of dementia."
Dr Parastou Donyai, associate professor of social and cognitive pharmacy at the University of Reading, said: "This type of study imagines that patients actually take their drugs as they were prescribed for them.
"But we know from other research that people with long-term health conditions really only take their medication as prescribed around half of the time - the other half, people either take more or less of their medication or not at all."
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