FIVE Brits a day are being left with dementia symptoms after taking common drugs used to treat depression.
A study last month warned the medicines – known as anticholinergics – may raise risk of the brain-wasting disease by 49 per cent.
Up to two million adults are prescribed the pills for bladder problems, epilepsy, depression and Parkinson’s.
Now a Sun investigation has found the medicines watchdog received 252 reports last year of patients suffering mental difficulties after taking the drugs for these condition.
Complaints to the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) include memory loss, confusion, or a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
In total, it received 2,596 alerts in the past decade from patients saying the pills have damaged their brain power.
NHS guidance advises doctors to consider alternative treatments, particularly in the frail elderly.
But experts now want more research to confirm whether the pills do cause dementia and how.
Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Short term side-effects on memory and thinking from some anticholinergic drugs are well known, and doctors should use caution when prescribing them to frail and older people.
“Evidence now suggests that long-term use of some anticholinergic drugs could increase dementia risk.
“But more research is needed to unpick exactly which drugs should be avoided for anyone already at risk of dementia.
“Our research at the University of East Anglia is exploring whether anticholinergic bladder drugs could increase risk, which will tell us whether they can cause dementia and how they might be doing it.”
Around 850,000 Brits currently have dementia – and the figure is expected to hit one million within a decade.
There is currently no cure, although some drugs can limit the symptoms.
An analysis by Nottingham University estimates anticholinergic drugs could be responsible for one in ten new cases of the disease – around 20,000 a year.
Only smoking is a bigger modifiable risk factor for dementia.
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Anticholinergic drugs help to contract and relax muscles.
They work by blocking acetylcholine, a chemical that transmits messages in the nervous system.
Previous studies have estimated between 1.5 to two million people in England are likely to be taking the drugs.
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