A new study by the University of Eastern Finland has found that use of antiepileptic drugs can lead to more hospital days for people living with Alzheimer’s disease.

A two-year follow-up in patients who had initiated antiepileptics use showed they had an accumulation of around eight more hospital days, compared to those who did not use the drugs.

Statistics reveal that up to 1% of the population requires long-term use of antiepileptics to control their epilepsy.

However, the drugs are also used to treat other conditions, such as dementia symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease and neuropathic pain.

During the study, which was funded by the Academy of Finland, the researchers examined people without an epilepsy diagnosis.

The study was based on the MEDALZ cohort including people with clinically verified Alzheimer’s disease in Finland between 2005 and 2011.

Data on the use of antiepileptic drug was obtained from the Finnish Prescription Register. The research analysed comorbidities, concomitant medications and time since Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

It was observed that differences in the accumulated hospital days were most distinct in cases of mental and behavioural disorders, as well as musculoskeletal, respiratory and neurological diseases.

The team noted that dementia was found to be the most common diagnosis for hospitalisations.

Since all-cause hospitalisations have been suggested to indicate overall drug safety, the researchers said that the study findings may partly point towards adverse effects.

They added that the results are also likely reflect the treatment of neuropathic pain or behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.

A statement from the university read: “Because untreated pain can manifest as behavioural and psychological symptoms, such as aggression, its identification and treatment are important.

“The findings highlight the importance of future studies on the risk-benefit ratio of antiepileptic drugs in older adults and especially in those with Alzheimer’s disease.”

The findings were published in the Journal of American Medical Directors Association.