Antiepileptic Medications Increase Risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Study Finds

Antiepileptic Medications Increase Risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Study Finds

Continuous use of antiepileptic medications leads to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, according to a recent study.

These findings may have implications for the treatment of Dravet syndrome, epilepsy, neuropathic pain, and other disorders.

The study, “Use of Antiepileptic Drugs and Dementia Risk — an Analysis of Finnish Health Register and German Health Insurance Data,” appeared in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society.

Building on prior research that indicated that the use of antiepileptic therapies was associated with a greater risk of dementia in older adults, Finnish and German researchers used two data sets to test this correlation.

The Finnish data set was part of the nationwide register-based MEDALZ study, which includes all 70,718 persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in Finland in 2005-2011 and their 282,862 controls.

German researchers studied the association between antiepileptic therapy use and dementia in a sample from a large German statutory health insurance provider, which included 20,325 persons diagnosed with dementia in 2004-2011, and their 81,300 controls.

Researchers compared the risk of dementia and antiepileptic medications both with and without known cognitive adverse effects. They differentiated between long-term and occasional antiepileptic use, while also looking at a possible dose-response relation.

Results showed that continuous use of antiepileptic medications for more than one year was linked to a 15% increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s in the Finnish dataset, and a 30% increased risk of dementia in the German data set.

Specifically, using therapies that are known to impair cognitive function correlated with a 20% greater risk of Alzheimer’s and a 60% greater risk of dementia. The most frequently used medications with known cognitive effects include primidone, phenytoin, carbamazepine, clonazepam, and valproate. The greatest risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia was observed with valproate.

In contrast, medications with no known cognitive adverse effects, which include oxcarbazepine, vigabatrin, tiagabine, lamotrigine, gabapentin, levetiracetam, pregabalin, and lacosamide, did not correlate with an increased dementia risk.

Data also revealed that the higher the dose of an antiepileptic therapy that can impair cognitive function, the higher the risk of dementia.

“More research should be conducted into the long-term cognitive effects of these drugs, especially among older people,” Heidi Taipale, PhD, the study’s first author from the University of Eastern Finland, said in a press release.

“Our findings highlight the importance of possible long-term adverse cognitive effects of [antiepileptic medications] in older adults,” the researchers wrote in the study, highlighting the need for large clinical trials to confirm these results.


  1. Leann Zezelj says:

    My mum had trigeminal neuralgia and was given high doses of Lyrica for over a 2 yr period…no family history of vascular dementia… I had blamed the silliness on lyrica and emailed doctor…About my concerns…of course I was a matter of what seemed 1.5 yr period she had gotten worse making me look into the medication…then demand she be taken off them….my mum is in 5th stage dementia … if it doesn’t cause it…it most certainly incressed the speed of it… she went from mum to well not really mum in a matter of 3 yrs 2yrs on meds… It wasnt till I demanded tests that the doctor realised…by which time the meds to slow the onslat wouldnt work….PLEASE PLEASE LOOK INTO THIS LYRICA B4 USING…

  2. Lynne Valentine says:

    Pregabalin has many cognitive effects, among others. I cannot believe they are still saying it does not. I have personal experience of the lasting effects of this drug!

  3. Dennis says:

    I have tried everything I can find that is rumored to help with neuropathy. Unfortunately, the only thing, I’ve found, that works,for me,is Pregabalin. Doctors, I’ve seen, including a neurologist,know nothing about neuropathy.According to this study I, possibly, have a 70% chance of not developing dementia, due to this drug. Scary.

  4. Eric says:

    I’ve been taking Tegretol for years because of two seizures I had about 15 years ago. I believe they were from an allegic reaction to Allegra. Has anyone out there taken this stuff long term and experienced any issues?

    • Tony says:

      I’m taking carbomazepine Tegertol, for about a year now because of trigeminal neuralgia. I saw these news articles recently that link it to dementia, I’m going to ask my neurologist about it. But I ha e been having trouble with short term memory. I forget simple things as in locking a door and things.

  5. Lorie says:

    I’ve been taking Tegretol for over 30 years, clonazepam for 25 years, and gabapentin for 15 years for seizures.

  6. Linda Remensnyder says:

    I have been taking oxcarbazepine for trigeminal neuralgia for 7 months and and have also experienced negative cognitive effects. I have difficulty retrieving words, have to take special measures to keep me on task when cooking or driving, and even have difficulty finding the correct keyboard keys when texting or emailing whether on the computer or on the iPhone. My neurologist, who specializes in trigeminal neuralgia and teaches at a renowned medical school, insists that this medication is the only one that will not interfere with my Eliquis (blood thinner) so, despite the research as cited above, I am in the process of gradually reducing oxcarbazepine and taking my chances with my first (and hopefully final) episode of trigeminal neuralgia . . .

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