Alzheimer's Disease Patients Taking Benzodiazepine Are 30% More Likely To Develop Pneumonia [Study]

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Apr 12, 2017 10:17 AM EDT

Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) in Kuopio, Finland found an association between benzodiazepine use and pneumonia risk. They revealed that people with Alzheimer's disease taking the drug is 30 percent more likely to develop that lung infection.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia that affects over 5.5 million individuals in the United States. It also causes the 60 to 70 percent cases of dementia in the world.

According to Medical News Today, some studies claimed that dementia can cause pneumonia and pneumonia-related death. But previous research suggested a connection between the use of benzodiazepines prescribed to dementia patients and pneumonia risk.

To find evidence, a new group of researchers conducted further analysis. The study's first author Dr. Heidi Taipale and colleagues aim to confirm if there’s really a link between benzodiazepine use and pneumonia development in Alzheimer's disease patients.

The researchers studied data from 49,484 people with Alzheimer's disease from the national registries of the Medication use and Alzheimer's disease, or MEDALZ unit. The participants’ information includes details of prescriptions, hospital discharges and causes of their death.

The researchers distinguished that among all the participants, 5,232 were benzodiazepine users and 3,269 were users of Z-drugs, a non-benzodiazepine medicine but with a similar effect. The study found that participants with Alzheimer's disease that took benzodiazepine were 30 percent more likely to develop pneumonia. Result details were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Furthermore, the researchers determined an increase pneumonia risk during the first 30 days of treatment with the benzodiazepine. They then recommend that benzodiazepine should be cautiously considered for people with Alzheimer's disease to prevent pneumonia development.

The study is completely observational as per the researchers. Therefore, the reason why benzodiazepine use is linked with the possible development of pneumonia in Alzheimer's disease patients is unclear. However, the team believed that an increased risk of food or saliva aspiration into the lungs may be caused by a regular intake of that sedative.

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