Antiepileptic drugs are tied to higher mortality risk in people with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study from Finland. 

The findings are concerning, as the drugs are frequently used for indications other than epilepsy in these patients, the researchers contend. This includes neuropathic pain and the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.

Study data was pulled from a nationwide Finnish prescription registry of people with Alzheimer’s, including patients with and without epilepsy. Investigators found that mortality risk jumped during the first three months of antiepileptic drug treatment. In addition, users of older drugs were more likely to die when compared to those who took newer antiepileptics.

People with Alzheimer’s disease are not only more likely to be prescribed antiepileptics than those without dementia, but to be prescribed older drugs choices, wrote first author Tatyana Sarycheva, M.D., from the University of Eastern Finland.

The results held after controlling for comorbidities, sociodemographic factors and the use of other medications. Risk also remained elevated after participants with epilepsy were excluded.

The researchers cautioned that the reasons for prescribing an antiepileptic could partly explain the study results.

The findings were published in the journal Neurology.