Association between CNS-active drugs and risk of Alzheimer’s and age-related neurodegenerative diseases

Helena Cortes-Flores, Georgina Torrandell-Haro, Roberta Diaz Brinton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: As neuropsychiatric conditions can increase the risk of age-related neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs), the impact of CNS-active drugs on the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), non-AD dementia, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) was investigated. Research design and methods: A retrospective cohort analysis of a medical claims dataset over a 10 year span was conducted in patients aged 60 years or older. Participants were propensity score matched for comorbidity severity and demographic parameters. Relative risk (RR) ratios and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were determined for age-related NDDs. Cumulative hazard ratios and treatment duration were determined to assess the association between CNS-active drugs and NDDs at different ages and treatment duration intervals. Results: In 309,128 patients who met inclusion criteria, exposure to CNS-active drugs was associated with a decreased risk of AD (0.86% vs 1.73%, RR: 0.50; 95% CI: 0.47-0.53; p <.0001) and all NDDs (3.13% vs 5.76%, RR: 0.54; 95% CI: 0.53-0.56; p <.0001). Analysis of impact of drug class on risk of AD indicated that antidepressant, sedative, anticonvulsant, and stimulant medications were associated with significantly reduced risk of AD whereas atypical antipsychotics were associated with increased AD risk. The greatest risk reduction for AD and NDDs occurred in patients aged 70 years or older with a protective effect only in patients with long-term therapy (>3 years). Furthermore, responders to these therapeutics were characterized by diagnosed obesity and higher prescriptions of anti-inflammatory drugs and menopausal hormonal therapy, compared to patients with a diagnosis of AD (non-responders). Addition of a second CNS-active drug was associated with greater reduction in AD risk compared to monotherapy, with the combination of a Z-drug and an SNRI associated with greatest AD risk reduction. Conclusion: Collectively, these findings indicate that CNS-active drugs were associated with reduced risk of developing AD and other age-related NDDs. The exception was atypical antipsychotics, which increased risk. Potential use of combination therapy with atypical antipsychotics could mitigate the risk conferred by these drugs. Evidence from these analyses advance precision prevention strategies to reduce the risk of age-related NDDs in persons with neuropsychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1358568
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - 2024


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • CNS-active drugs
  • neurodegenerative diseases
  • responder analysis
  • retrospective analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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