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Neurologia. 2014 Nov-Dec;29(9):523-32. doi: 10.1016/j.nrl.2012.05.004. Epub 2012 Oct 9.

Inappropriate treatments for patients with cognitive decline.

[Article in English, Spanish]

Author information

  • 1Unidad de Neurología Cognitiva, Hospital La Rosaleda, Santiago de Compostela, España. Electronic address:
  • 2Unidad de Epidemiología Clínica, Hospital Clínico Universitario, Santiago de Compostela, España.



Some treatments are inappropriate for patients with cognitive decline. We analyse their use in 500 patients and present a literature review.


Benzodiazepines produce dependence, and reduce attention, memory, and motor ability. They can cause disinhibition or aggressive behaviour, facilitate the appearance of delirium, and increase accident and mortality rates in people older than 60. In subjects over 65, low systolic blood pressure is associated with cognitive decline. Maintaining this figure between 130 and 140 mm Hg (145 in patients older than 80) is recommended. Hypocholesterolaemia < 160 mg/dl is associated with increased morbidity and mortality, aggressiveness, and suicide; HDL-cholesterol<40 mg/dl is associated with memory loss and increased vascular and mortality risks. Old age is a predisposing factor for developing cognitive disorders or delirium when taking opioids. The risks of prescribing anticholinesterases and memantine to patients with non-Alzheimer dementia that is not associated with Parkinson disease, mild cognitive impairment, or psychiatric disorders probably outweigh the benefits. Anticholinergic drugs acting preferentially on the peripheral system can also induce cognitive side effects. Practitioners should be aware of steroid-induced dementia and steroid-induced psychosis, and know that risk of delirium increases with polypharmacy. Of 500 patients with cognitive impairment, 70.4% were on multiple medications and 42% were taking benzodiazepines. Both conditions were present in 74.3% of all suspected iatrogenic cases.


Polypharmacy should be avoided, if it is not essential, especially in elderly patients and those with cognitive impairment. Benzodiazepines, opioids and anticholinergics often elicit cognitive and behavioural disorders. Moreover, systolic blood pressure must be kept above 130 mm Hg, total cholesterol levels over 160 mg/dl, and HDL-cholesterol over 40 mg/dl in this population.

Copyright © 2012 Sociedad Española de Neurología. Published by Elsevier Espana. All rights reserved.


Anticholinergics; Anticholinesterases; Anticolinesterasas; Anticolinérgicos; Benzodiacepinas; Benzodiazepines; Memantina; Memantine; Opioides; Opioids; Polifarmacia; Polypharmacy

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