Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Patricia Slattum


Background: Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia and is characterized by a progressive loss of memory, judgment, and thinking in older adults. The current treatment is cholinesterase inhibitors, which increase acetylcholine at the synapse. Medications with anticholinergic (AC) activity are given for a variety reasons including for the treatment of comorbid conditions or side effects of cholinesterase inhibitors (ChEIs). These drugs inhibit acetylcholine in the brain. Studies have shown the detrimental outcomes of using AC medications with ChEIs in older adults. Moreover, older patients take more medications and have an increased risk of developing AC toxicity as these effects are additive. The association between AC burden with functional, cognitive, and behavioral outcomes bears further evaluation. Methods: This study is a retrospective observational study that investigated the effect of AC medications on function, cognition, and behavior. Data was collected from charts on dementia patients who resided at Piedmont Geriatric Hospital. Descriptive statistics and GEE regression were performed using MS Excel 2007 and SPSS 18.0. Results: There were a total of 83 subjects included in this study with a median age of 77 years old and with a median length of stay of 536 days. 33.7% of the patients were taking cognitive-enhancing medications. The analysis found that AC burden was not a significant predictor of functional, cognitive or behavioral decline. Conclusion: The minimal amount of literature on this association, suggests that AC burden may have negative consequences on function, cognition and behavior in dementia patients. The study results provided inconclusive evidence about the association of AC burden on poorer functional, cognitive and behavioral outcomes. Future research in this field is needed to determine if there is a true association between worsening outcomes and AC burden.


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Date of Submission

August 2010