Drugs with anticholinergic properties may be associated with various adverse clinical effects. The relationship between the anticholinergic (AC) burden and functional, global cognitive performance and behavior disturbances was assessed among elderly patients.
A cross-sectional study was conducted between January 2012 and June 2014 in a memory clinic among outpatients living at home and with subjective cognitive decline (SCD) or neurocognitive disorders (NCD). The AC burden was measured using the Anticholinergic Drug Scale (ADS), the Anticholinergic Risk Scale (ARS), the Anticholinergic Cognitive Burden (ACB), Chew's score, Han's score, and the number of drugs with AC activity. Functional, cognitive performance and behavior disturbances were assessed using the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) scale (IADL), the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), and the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI).
Among 473 included patients, 46.3% were at major NCD. Patients took on average 5.3 ± 2.6 drugs. MMSE was lower when Han's score (p = 0.04) and number of AC drugs were higher (p < 0.001). IADL was lower when AC burden was higher, whatever the AC measurement. NPI was higher when ACB, Han's score, and number of AC drugs were higher. After adjustment, all AC scores remained associated with IADL, while Han's score and number of drugs with AC remained associated with the MMSE.
In patients with SCD or NCD, AC burden is associated with lower functional score, whereas the cross-sectional association between AC burden and cognitive performance or behavioral disturbance varies according to AC scores. Particular attention should be paid when prescribing drugs with AC properties, especially among patients with memory complaints.