Health & Family

Did anti-anxiety medicine lead to Alzheimer’s?

Q: My wife has taken clonazepam for more than 15 years now and shows signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Is there clinical evidence to support this connection?

A: Clonazepam belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. They are among the most widely prescribed medications in the U.S. Other drugs in this category include alprazolam, diazepam, flurazepam, lorazepam and temazepam.

Such medications are prescribed for the short-term relief of symptoms of anxiety or insomnia. Physicians may prescribe certain benzos to ease muscle spasms or help control seizure disorders.

A Canadian study published in the journal BMJ (online, Sept. 9, 2014) reported a link between benzodiazepines and an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in older people. The longer people used such medications, the greater their risk of developing dementia.

Similar results were revealed in a long-term French study (BMJ online, Sept. 27, 2012). The authors concluded that “The findings of this large prospective population-based study show that new use of benzodiazepines is associated with an approximately 50 percent increase in the risk of dementia.”

It is impossible to say whether an individual’s long-term use of such medications contributed to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, but researchers are cautioning that benzos can increase the risk of falls and fractures, and could have a negative impact on mental functioning when taken over a long period.

Pain after flu shot

Q: I am a nurse practitioner and had to get a flu shot this year as a condition for working in my hospital.

I hadn’t been sick in three years, but I ended up with the flu, even after the shot. Now, two months later, I still have substantial arm pain and muscle weakness. I am a very active person, and this is quite annoying and is interfering with my workout routine.

A: Others also have reported persistent arm pain after getting a flu shot. We do not know how widespread this reaction has been, but it appears to be different from the short-term discomfort (two or three days) many people experience.

Drugs from Canada

Q: What’s the latest on buying prescription drugs from Canada? The cost of brand-name medications is destroying us financially. Is it true that buying drugs from a Canadian pharmacy is illegal?

A: In a word, yes. Buying prescription drugs from any pharmacy outside the U.S. is against federal law.

That said, neither the Food and Drug Administration nor U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been prosecuting grannies for buying heart medicine from Canada. To make things more complicated, Maine has passed legislation that allows its residents to purchase prescription drugs from Canada.

In Congress, Sens. John McCain and Amy Klobuchar have reintroduced the Safe and Affordable Drugs From Canada Act. It would allow Americans with a valid prescription to purchase their drugs from licensed Canadian pharmacies.

Reach Joe and Terry Graedon at PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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