Medication and Road Test Performance among Cognitively Healthy Older Adults

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JAMA Network Open


Importance: Older adults are increasingly prescribed medications that have adverse effects. Prior studies have found a higher risk of motor vehicle crashes to be associated with certain medication use. Objective: To determine whether specific medication classes were associated with performance decline as assessed by a standardized road test in a community sample of cognitively healthy older adults, to evaluate additional associations of poor road test performance with comorbid medical conditions and demographic characteristics, and to test the hypothesis that specific medication classes (ie, antidepressants, benzodiazepines, sedatives or hypnotics, anticholinergics, antihistamines, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or acetaminophen) would be associated with an increase in risk of impaired driving performance over time. Design, Setting, and Participants: This was a prospective cohort study of 198 cognitively healthy adults 65 years and older with a valid driver's license who were followed up annually, with rolling enrollment. Data were collected from participants in St Louis, Missouri, and neighboring Illinois who were enrolled in the Knight Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. Data were collected from August 28, 2012, to March 14, 2023, and analyzed from April 1 to 25, 2023. Participants with healthy cognition, defined as a Clinical Dementia Rating score of 0 at baseline and subsequent visits, who had available clinical, neuropsychological, road tests, and self-reported medication data were included. Exposure: Potentially driver-impairing medication use. Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcome measure was performance on the Washington University Road Test (pass or marginal/fail). Multivariable Cox proportional hazards models were used to evaluate associations between potentially driver-impairing medication use and road test performance. Results: Of the 198 included adults (mean [SD] baseline age, 72.6 [4.6] years; 87 female [43.9%]), 70 (35%) received a marginal/fail rating on the road test over a mean (SD) follow-up of 5.70 (2.45) years. Any use of antidepressants (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 2.68; 95% CI, 1.69-4.71), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (aHR, 2.68; 95% CI, 1.54-4.64), sedatives or hypnotics (aHR, 2.70; 95% CI, 1.40-5.19), or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aHR, 2.72; 95% CI, 1.31-5.63) was associated with an increase in risk of receiving a marginal/fail rating on the road test compared with control individuals. Conversely, participants taking lipid-lowering agents had a lower risk of receiving a marginal/fail rating compared to control individuals. There were no statistically significant associations found between anticholinergic or antihistamines and poor performance. Conclusions and Relevance: In this prospective cohort study, specific medication classes were associated with an increase in risk of poor road test performance over time. Clinicians should consider this information and counsel patients accordingly when prescribing these medications..

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