(HealthDay News) – New use of benzodiazepines correlates with an increase in the risk of dementia, according to a study published online Sept 27 in BMJ.

In an effort to examine the association between use of benzodiazepines and incident dementia, Sophie Billioti de Gage, from the Université Bordeaux Segalen in France, and colleagues conducted a prospective, population-based study involving 1,063 men and women (mean age, 78.2 years) who were free of dementia at baseline. Participants did not start taking benzodiazepines until the third year of follow-up or later.

During 15 years of follow-up, the researchers found that there were 253 confirmed incident cases of dementia. New use of benzodiazepines correlated with an elevated risk of dementia (multivariable adjusted hazard ratio [HR], 1.6). There was a similar association for the existence of depressive symptoms (HR, 1.62). In a pooled analysis of five cohorts, the HR for new benzodiazepine users who started treatment during follow-up was 1.46. Ever use of benzodiazepines correlated with a significantly increased risk of dementia in a nested case-control study (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.55), compared with never users, with similar results for past users (OR, 1.56); the risk for recent users was not significant (OR, 1.48; 95% confidence interval, 0.83–2.63).

“Considering the extent to which benzodiazepines are now prescribed, physicians and regulatory agencies should consider the increasing evidence of the potential adverse effects of this drug class for the general population,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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