Antiepileptic Drugs Increase Risk of Alzheimer’s

Summary: A new study reveals antiepileptic drugs with side effects of impairing cognitive function can increase the risk of patients developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, the higher the dose of the medication used, the greater the risk of developing dementia, researchers report.

Source: University of Eastern Finland.

The use of antiepileptic drugs is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, according to a new study from the University of Eastern Finland and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, DZNE. Continuous use of antiepileptic drugs for a period exceeding one year was associated with a 15 percent increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in the Finnish dataset, and with a 30 percent increased risk of dementia in the German dataset.

Some antiepileptic drugs are known to impair cognitive function, which refers to all different aspects of information processing. When the researchers compared different antiepileptic drugs, they found that the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia was specifically associated with drugs that impair cognitive function. These drugs were associated with a 20 percent increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and with a 60 percent increased risk of dementia.

The researchers also found that the higher the dose of a drug that impairs cognitive function, the higher the risk of dementia. However, other antiepileptic drugs, i.e. those which do not impair cognitive processing, were not associated with the risk.

“More research should be conducted into the long-term cognitive effects of these drugs, especially among older people,” Senior Researcher Heidi Taipale from the University of Eastern Finland says.

Antiepileptic drugs increase risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. image is credited to UEF.

Besides for epilepsy, antiepileptic drugs are used in the treatment of neuropathic pain, bipolar disorder and generalised anxiety disorder. This new study is the largest research on the topic so far, and the first to investigate the association in terms of regularity of use, dose and comparing the risk between antiepileptic drugs with and without cognitive-impairing effects. The results were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The association of antiepileptic drug use with Alzheimer’s disease was assessed in Finnish persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and their controls without the disease. This study is part of the nationwide register-based MEDALZ study, which includes all 70,718 persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in Finland during 2005-2011 and their 282,862 controls. The association of antiepileptic drug use with dementia was investigated in a sample from a large German statutory health insurance provider, Allgemeine Ortskrankenkasse (AOK). The dataset includes 20,325 persons diagnosed with dementia in 2004-2011, and their 81,300 controls.

About this neuroscience research article

Source: Heidi Taipale – University of Eastern Finland
Publisher: Organized by
Image Source: image is credited to UEF.
Original Research: Abstract for “Use of Antiepileptic Drugs and Dementia Risk—an Analysis of Finnish Health Register and German Health Insurance Data” by Heidi Taipale PhD, Willy Gomm PhD, Karl Broich MD, Wolfgang Maier MD, Anna‐Maija Tolppanen PhD, Antti Tanskanen, Phil Lic, Jari Tiihonen PhD, MD, Sirpa Hartikainen PhD, MD, and Britta Haenisch PhD in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Published March 22 2018,

Cite This Article

[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]University of Eastern Finland “Antiepileptic Drugs Increase Risk of Alzheimer’s.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 9 April 2018.
<>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]University of Eastern Finland (2018, April 9). Antiepileptic Drugs Increase Risk of Alzheimer’s. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved April 9, 2018 from[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]University of Eastern Finland “Antiepileptic Drugs Increase Risk of Alzheimer’s.” (accessed April 9, 2018).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]


Use of Antiepileptic Drugs and Dementia Risk—an Analysis of Finnish Health Register and German Health Insurance Data

To evaluate the association between regular antiepileptic drug (AED) use and incident dementia.

Case‐control analysis.

Finnish public health register and German health insurance data.

Individuals with dementia of any type (German data, N=20,325) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD; Finnish data, N=70,718) were matched with up to four control persons without dementia.

We analyzed the association between regular AED use and dementia. To address potential protopathic bias, a lag time of 2 years between AED use and dementia diagnosis was introduced. Odds ratios (ORs) were calculated by applying conditional logistic regression, adjusted for potential confounding factors such as comorbidities and polypharmacy.

Regular AED use was more frequent in individuals with dementia than controls. Regular use of AEDs was associated with a significantly greater risk of incident dementia (adjusted OR=1.28, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.14–1.44) and AD (adjusted OR=1.15, 95% CI=1.09–1.22) than no AED use. We also detected a trend toward greater risk of dementia with higher exposure. When AEDs with and without known cognitive adverse effects (CAEs) were compared, a significantly greater risk of dementia was observed for substances with known CAEs (dementia: OR=1.59, 95% CI=1.36–1.86; AD: OR=1.19, 95% CI=1.11–1.27).

AEDs, especially those with known CAEs, may contribute to incident dementia and AD in older persons.

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  1. This is a somewhat disturbing read especially (as already pointed out in other responses) names of specific drugs have been omitted. My husband has been taking Epilim (sodium valproate) for years for his migraines and has recently been experiencing memory problems. As ‘valproate’ has been listed above as a substance with known CAEs, I am now wondering if his memory problems are due simply to the ageing process or not. I think a visit to our doctor may be in order!

    1. One flaw is that MD’s only know what drug co reps tell them about drugs. Commissions are sales dependent. Monthly I receive info on Pharm Co’s being charged and convicted in the US and fined billions of dollars for crimes against humanity. When was the last time the gov’t of canada brought charges against a drug manufacturer ? Same drugs … 5 years ago an experienced former ER doc prescribed me a cocktail of drugs already publicized and banned in the USA for causing fatal myocardial infarction and stroke. The pharmacist flagged it. More recently after me telling him I was dangerously reactive to the Keflex family of drugs, he prescribed a generic of the same drug. Again the pharmacist flagged it and phoned the doc.

  2. They didn’t specifically list the name of the antiepileptic drug associated with increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. All, or just a few?. What about ‘LevETIRAcetam’? Would help to know!_!

    1. “The AEDs pres cribed during the observation time weredivided into 2 groups: substances with known CAEs (phe-nobarbital, primidone, barbexaclone, phenyto in, ethosuxi-mide, clonazepam, carbamazepine, valproate, topiramate,zonisamide) and those without known CAEs (oxcarbaze-pine, vigabatrin, tiagabine, lamotrigine, gabapentin, leve-tiracetam, pregabalin, lacosamide (See SupplementaryText S1 for ATC codes.)”

  3. As one who takes these for essential tremor Naming the affected drugs would be appreciated and remove a lot of unnecessary stress. Please reply with the name of medication(s).

  4. All drugs create imbalance and do damage as they’re interfering with a system that has been tailored over millions of years. The future of medicine lies in two areas: mind reprogramming and genetic manipulation.

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