Prescription Drugs and Falls

Thursday, March 18th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

An analysis recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that certain kinds of popularly prescribed medications — such as sedatives and antidepressants — can increase older adults’ risk for falling.

Analyzed were 22 studies, published from 1996 to 2007, involving more than 79,000 subjects age 60-plus. Three classes of drugs were determined to increase the risk for falling significantly:

  • Sedatives and hypnotics (which may be used as sleep aids);
  • Antidepressants; and
  • Benzodiazepines (including tranquilizers, such as Valium and Xanax).
  • Fall risk was also seen to rise with the use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin), as well as with medications used in the treatment of psychosis. However, the conditions for which such drugs are typically prescribed may themselves increase fall risk.

    Interviewed by Reuters Health, researcher Dr. Carlo Marra of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, noted that prescription drug use by elderly patients is increasing — and, in fact, that a recent study found one in seven people over the age of 80 to have filled an antidepressant prescription. He added that older adults using any of the medications linked with a heightened risk for falls should discuss the matter with their physician and their


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