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J Psychopharmacol. 2019 Aug;33(8):965-974. doi: 10.1177/0269881119857206. Epub 2019 Jun 26.

Effects of commonly prescribed drugs on cognition and mild cognitive impairment in healthy elderly people.

Author information

1 Alzheimer's Disease Investigation Research Unit, CIEN Foundation, Carlos III Institute of Health, Queen Sofia Foundation, Alzheimer Research Centre, Madrid, Spain.
2 Service of Neurology, University Hospital Gregorio Marañón, Madrid, Spain.
3 Service of Psychiatry, University Hospital 12 de Octubre, Madrid, Spain.
4 Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red sobre Enfermedades Degenerativas (CIBERNED), Carlos III Institute of Health, Madrid, Spain.



Chronic drug intake has been associated with negative and positive cognitive effects in elderly people, although subjacent conditions may be confounding factors.


To study the effects on cognitive performance of commonly prescribed medications in a cohort of cognitively normal older adults.


Medication intake was recorded during two years in 1087 individuals 70-85 years old, without neurological or psychiatric conditions. The influence of every drug, drug family and therapeutic group on six cognitive scores and on the conversion to mild cognitive impairment over two years was ascertained by cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses controlling for demographic and clinical variables.


Small effects of several drugs on information processing were found in cross-sectional analyses but only confirmed for a positive effect of vitamin D in case-control analyses. Longitudinal analyses showed no drug effects on the cognitive slopes. Several hypotensive drugs reduced, whereas bromazepam and glucose lowering drugs increased, the conversion rate to mild cognitive impairment with very small effects (R2=0.3-1%).


Cognitively healthy elderly individuals show minimal negative effects on information processing associated with chronic intake of some drugs probably related to the subjacent condition. Some drugs slightly affect the rate of conversion to mild cognitive impairment. Positive effects of vitamin D, chondroitin, atorvastatin and antihypertensive drugs, and negative effects of antidepressants and benzodiazepines, should be further explored in studies with longer follow-up.


Chronic drug intake; aging; cognitive function; mild cognitive impairment; polypharmacy


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