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Opioids Can Enhance Risk Of Pneumonia In Alzheimer’s, Says Study

Patients affected by Alzheimer’s diseases and taking opioid painkillers have increased chances of developing pneumonia, as per a report from researchers based out of Finland. Chances of being affected by pneumonia were over 30% higher in those taking opioid painkillers, mostly during the first 2 months of usage, stated the researchers in their findings. Those who are on opioid drugs like fentanyl and oxycodone, which are quite strong in nature, showed the highest risks of developing pneumonia in them.

Pneumonia risks rose accordingly in Alzheimer’s patients, even when they took only milder opioids, as per the Eastern Finland University research team. Dosage quantities did not seem to matter much as effects were seen in both high-dose and low-dose patients.

Aleksi Hamina, who is a researcher with the University and his colleagues, stated that cough reflexes could be impaired by their opioids. Respiratory functions could also be affected along with increased fatigue and sleepiness in patients on opioid drugs. These factors contributed towards an increased risk of developing pneumonia, stated the study’s lead authors and research team. Aleksi Hamina works with the University’s Pharmacy School.

Data collected during 2010–2011 were analyzed for the purposes of the research. Data of over 5,600 Alzheimer’s affected patients from Finland was used by researchers. Details and medical records of patients who were on opioid drugs were compared against patients who weren’t on these drugs.

The research findings and corresponding details were published in JAD, a prominent Alzheimer’s journal, very recently.

Pain assessments among patients affected by Alzheimer’s is often a very difficult procedure to plan and do, due to communication problems and breakdown between patients and the questioners, explained the researchers, in the press release. Prescriptions of opioid painkillers ought to begin at low doses and assessed regularly for any harm or benefits, they stated.