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Medications Linked to Falls and Deaths amongst the Elderly

Medications Linked to Falls and Deaths amongst the Elderly
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Elderly people taking certain medications, like antidepressants or benzodiazepines, are more likely to suffer injuries or deaths from falling.

Falling and fall related injuries are the fifth leading cause of death in the developed world, and researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) say that medications being prescribed to the elderly may substantially contribute to this death toll.

UBC researchers performed a statistical analysis on data from more than 79 000 people aged 60 and over who were using different over the counter and prescription medications. They compared rates of falling to the use of 9 different classes of drugs, looking to see which drugs, if any, caused an increased risk of falling.

The Results

  • Antidepressants cause the most falls (The researchers say that older classes of antidepressants can have significant sedative properties)
  • Other classes of medications associated with an increased risk of falling included benzodiazepines and anti-psychotic/neuroleptics.
  • Surprisingly, opiates pain killers were not associated with an increased risk of falling in this study.

The researchers say that the prescribing of certain medications to the elderly is on the increase (1 in 7 seniors over the age of 80 in B.C. took an antidepressant in 2006), but that in some cases, medication may not be the most beneficial course of treatment.

Lead researcher Carlo Marra commented on the significance of the study results, saying, “These findings reinforce the need for judicious use of medications in elderly people at risk of falling. Safer alternatives, such as counseling, shorter-term or less-sedating therapies, may be more appropriate for certain conditions."

The full research results can be found in the Nov 23 edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

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