-Dr. Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC
Donepezil, a drug commonly prescribed to combat Alzheimer’s, may lead to an abnormally slow heart rate according to a new study. This condition is known as bradycardia and is potentially life threatening. Researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital studied the data from 1.4 million bradycardia patients over the age of 67 and found a direct link between bradycardia and cholinesterase inhibitors.
Cholinesterase inhibitors are found in the drug Donepezil. Researchers concluded that those on Donepezil or those with more cholinesterase inhibitors, were at a higher risk for bradycardia. Older patients with bradycardia were more than twice as likely to have recently started a cholinesterase inhibitor compared to those without bradycardia.
Bradycardia can be asymptomatic but it can cause fainting, palpitations, shortness of breath or sometimes death. Clinicians must be mindful of Donepezil’s side effects before giving a patient the drug.