Antihypertensive Medications Decrease Alzheimer’s Risk

Several medications used to treat hypertension may also lower the risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in certain patients, according to a new retrospective cohort study. 

From 2007 to 2013, researchers compared AD rates for 1,343,334 Medicare beneficiaries who used six different antihypertensive (AHT) medications. They assessed differences based on use of renin-angiotensin system (RAS)-acting (angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors [ACEIs], and angiotensin-II receptor blockers [ARBs]) and non-RAS AHT drug users, as well as ACEI and ARB users, by sex and race/ethnicity. 

Among males, RAS-acting AHTs were associated with a slightly lower risk of AD when compared with non-RAS-acting AHTs (odds ratio [OR] = 0.931, confidence interval [CI] 0.895–0.969), but not for females (OR = 0.985, CI 0.963–1.007). Compared with ACEIs, ARBs were linked to decreased AD risk in white men (male ARB OR = 0.834, CI: 0.788–0.884; male ACEI OR = 0.978, CI 0.939–1.019) and white and black women (female ARB OR = 0.941, CI 0.913–0.969; female ACEI OR = 1.022, CI 0.997–1.048). Researchers observed no correlation for Hispanic men and women. 

About 5.5 million Americans have AD. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the population with AD doubles every five years after age 65; it is also estimated that by 2060, 14 million people will have AD. 

“Repurposing existing drugs could be an inexpensive means to reduce the large and disparate burden of Alzheimer’s disease,” said lead study author Doug Barthold, a research assistant professor in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Washington. “By analyzing commonly used prescription drugs in Medicare claims data, we can identify relationships with Alzheimer’s disease onset across diverse populations.” 

The researchers also noted the financial impact that even a small delay in onset of AD could have. 

“For example, if it were possible to achieve a one year delay in the onset of AD, this would lead to a reduction in the U.S. population ages 70 and older with AD in 2050 by 14% and savings of $219 billion in medical and caregiving costs in 2050,” they wrote. “A five-year delay in AD onset would reduce the U.S. population with AD in 2050 by 41%.” 

The study authors called for further research to confirm the differences between sex and race/ethnicity. 

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SourcesUW MedicinePLOS ONE, CDC