Anticholinergic burden in older women: not seeing the wood for the trees?
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Objectives: To identify medicines contributing to and describe predictors of anticholinergic burden among community-dwelling older Australian women. Design, setting and participants: Retrospective longitudinal analysis of data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health linked to Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medicines data from 1 January 2008 to 30 December 2010; for 3694 women born in 1921–1926. Main outcome measures: Anticholinergic burden calculated from Anticholinergic Drug Scale (ADS) scores derived from ADS levels (0 to 3) for all medicines used by each woman, summed over each 6-month period (semester), medicines commonly used by women with high semester ADS scores (defined as 75th percentile of scores). Results: 1126 women (59.9%) used at least one medicine with anticholinergic properties. The median ADS score was 4 or 5 across all semesters. Most anticholinergic medicines used by women who had a high anticholinergic burden (ADS score, = 9) had a low anticholinergic potency (ADS level 1). Increasing age, cardiovascular disease, and number of other medicines used were predictive of a higher anticholinergic burden. Conclusions: A high anticholinergic medicines burden in this group was driven by the use of multiple medicines with lower anticholinergic potency rather than the use of medicines with higher potency. This is a novel and important finding for clinical practice as doctors would readily identify the risk of a high anticholinergic burden for patients using high potency medicines, but may be less likely to identify this risk for users of multiple medicines with low anticholinergic potency.
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