Chinese Medicines

Benzodiazepine- a class of psychoactive drugs- prioritized as a key treatment of anxiety, agitation and insomnia in patients suffering from Alzheimer's may increase their risk of death by 40 percent, claim a study.

Benzodiazepines are a class of agent that specifically works on the central nervous system, acting selectively on gamma-aminobutyric acid-A receptor in the brain.

Alzheimer is a type of dementia which affects the memory, thinking and behavioral patterns in the affected individual. With age, people exhibit this disorder. It might turn out to be fatal if left untreated.

The study led by researchers from the University of Eastern Finland found that with the use of benzodiazepine and other related drugs the risk of death increases in patients suffering from Alzheimer's.

Death risk tends to increase as a result of the adverse effects of these drugs, which include fall-related injuries such as hip fractures, pneumonia and stroke.

The team from International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, took 10,380 solely new users of benzodiazepine and other related drugs. These users were already diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The team compared the above individuals with other 20, 760 persons who did not use these drugs.

Though several previous treatment guidelines asserted that non-pharmacological drugs are best for the treatment of anxiety, agitation and sleeping deprivation in patients with dementia, benzodiazepine and related drugs are most commonly used to treat the above symptoms.

However, in 2012, the American Geriatrics Society added benzodiazepines to their list of inappropriate medications for treating insomnia, agitation, or delirium.

This decision was made, keeping in mind the common side-effects of benzodiazepines -which include confusion and clouded thinking along with falls, fractures and auto accidents.

However, the researchers suggest that if benzodiazepine is needed, then it can be used for a short-term benefit only. The research suggested that the need of these drugs becomes important for patients with dementia alone.

"Benzodiazepines are risky to use in older people because they can cause confusion and slow down mental processes," said Anne Fabiny, Chief of Geriatrics at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance.

"However, although there is an association, we still can't say that benzodiazepine actually causes Alzheimer's," said Anne.