Research suggests Alzheimer’s drug reduces risk of stroke among people with dementia

26 April 2018

A study published by researchers at Monash University and the Karolinska Institutet has identified a potential new benefit of a commonly-used treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

The study demonstrated that the risk of ischaemic stroke was 15 per cent lower and the risk of death was 24 per cent lower in people with dementia who were dispensed acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChEIs) compared to people with dementia not dispensed these drugs.

Dr Edwin Tan

The study builds upon previous research that suggests that AChEIs have anti-inflammatory properties and help to protect the endothelial cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels.

Published today in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, the leading dementia-specific journal, the study is based on data from 44,288 individuals registered in the Swedish Dementia Registry (SveDem). It suggests that the use of AChEIs could potentially reduce the risk of ischaemic stroke.

The study’s primary author Dr Edwin Tan is an NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellow at the Centre for Medicine Use and Safety at Monash University (CMUS) and the Aging Research Center at the NVS department at the Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm University.

His research interests are in optimising medication use in people with cognitive impairment and dementia.

While these promising findings still need to be confirmed in other studies, Dr Tan highlighted that reducing stroke risk remains important for improving the care and quality of life of people with dementia.

“People with dementia who experience a stroke have accelerated functional decline and poorer survival,” Dr Tan said.

“And previous studies have shown that there is a two-fold greater risk of stroke in people with dementia compared to those without.”

There are an estimated 425,000 Australians living with dementia

As well as adding to the burden placed on individuals, carers and their families, stroke is associated with considerable healthcare expenditure. This means that, in addition to the direct consumer benefits, the use of AChEIs in people with dementia could potentially decrease the cost of care through reduced stroke risk.

“The fact acetylcholinesterase inhibitors may reduce the risk for stroke is an added benefit because there are clinical links between two of our most prevalent disorders in older people, dementia and stroke”  said Maria Eriksdotter, professor in geriatrics at Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital, and responsible for the project and for SveDem.

About the Centre for Medicine Use and Safety

Based within the Monash University Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the Centre for Medicine Use and Safety (“CMUS”) conducts multidisciplinary research into preventive, acute and chronic care, optimising medication management and patient safety. CMUS integrates academic and applied research to address medicine use and safety issues in the home, community, hospitals, residential aged care facilities and their interfaces.

CMUS has expertise in pharmacoepidemiology and public health, pharmacy education, pharmacotherapy, pharmacometrics and health services.

Monash University ranked #2 in the world for pharmacy and pharmacology in the 2018 QS World University Rankings by Subject.