No consensus has been reached regarding which anticholinergic scoring system works most effectively in clinical settings. The aim of this population-based cohort study was to examine the association between anticholinergic medication burden, as defined by different scales, and adverse clinical outcomes among older adults.
From Taiwan's Longitudinal Health Insurance Database, we retrieved data on monthly anticholinergic drug use measured by the Anticholinergic Risk Scale (ARS), the Anticholinergic Cognitive Burden Scale (ACB), and the Drug Burden Index - Anticholinergic component (DBI-Ach) for 116,043 people aged 65 years and older during a 10-year follow-up. For all 3 scales, a higher score indicates greater anticholinergic burden. We used generalized estimating equations to examine the association between anticholinergic burden (ARS and ACB: grouped from 0 to ≥4; DBI-Ach: grouped as 0, 0-0.5, and 0.5-1) and adverse outcomes, and stratified individuals by age-group (aged 65-74, 75-84, and ≥85 years).
Compared with the ARS and DBI-Ach, the ACB showed the strongest, most consistent dose-response relationships with risks of all 4 adverse outcomes, particularly in people aged 65 to 84 years. For example, among those 65 to 74 years old, going from an ACB score of 1 to a score of 4 or greater, individuals' adjusted odds ratio increased from 1.41 to 2.25 for emergency department visits; from 1.32 to 1.92 for all-cause hospitalizations; from 1.10 to 1.71 for fracture-specific hospitalizations; and from 3.13 to 10.01 for incident dementia.
Compared with the 2 other scales studied, the ACB shows good dose-response relationships between anticholinergic burden and a variety of adverse outcomes in older adults. For primary care and geriatrics clinicians, the ACB may be a helpful tool for identifying high-risk populations for interventions.