Monday, November 23, 2009

Psychotropic Drugs Boost Fall Risk in the Elderly

A new analysis of studies including nearly 80,000 people aged 60 and older confirms that certain types of widely prescribed drugs, such as antidepressants and sedatives, can increase their risk of falling.

Falls often have serious consequences for older people, such as injuries leading to disability and admission to a nursing home, or even death.

While prescription drugs are recognized as contributing to fall risk among older people --who are likely to be on lots of medications -- discovering just which drugs are the problem is still a "challenge," Dr. Carlo A. Marra of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and colleagues note in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

To update a review of studies on this subject published in 1996, Marra and his team identified 22 studies published between 1996 and 2007 including 79,081 people 60 and older, some of whom lived independently, and some of whom were institutionalized. They analyzed the risk of falling associated with nine classes of drugs.

Three classes turned out to significantly boost fall risk: sedatives and hypnotics, typically prescribed as sleeping aids; antidepressants; and benzodiazepines, which include tranquilizers like Xanax and Valium.