Popular Prescription Medications May Contribute to Falls, Injuries in Elderly Patients

SEPTEMBER 08, 2014
The adverse effects of commonly prescribed medications may threaten the well-being of elderly patients, according to research published in the European Journal of Public Health.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, studied nearly 7 million patients 65 years or older and identified 64,399 elderly individuals who were admitted to the hospital for a fall or injury between March 2006 and December 2009.

Each participant was matched with 4 controls based on gender, date of birth, and place of residence. The 20 most commonly prescribed medications were noted for all participants, dating back 30 days prior to their injury or fall.

A gender-based difference was noted, as women were 75% more likely to have a fall injury compared with their non-medicated counterparts. Men and women taking opioid analgesics were more than twice as likely to be hospitalized for a fall injury than their nonmedicated counterparts. Similarly, men taking antidepressants were 2× as likely to have a fall than elderly patients who were not taking such drugs.

Of the 20 most commonly prescribed drugs, 10 medications—especially 3 that affect the central nervous system—significantly increased the risk for injuries from falling. The highest risk was seen with the use of opioids and antidepressants, although hypnotics, sedatives, and analgesics were also of concern.

Drugs prescribed for ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease, calcium, vitamin B12, and some nonopioid analgesics were linked to a wide range of fall injuries.

Despite the findings, the researchers did not recommend halting prescribing of the drugs.