In elderly men and women, certain medications can increase the risk of falling, new research shows. M500

Findings from a 4-year study conducted in France suggest the risk of falling is 1.4 times greater among elderly men and women taking a long-acting benzodiazepine, compared with age-matched men and women not using this type of anti-anxiety medication.

Dr. Annick Alperovitch, at INSERM in Paris, and colleagues also found a moderately increased risk of falling among elderly men and women who regularly used mood- and behavior-altering psychotropic medications.

Their findings, reported in the journal BMC Geriatrics, identified similar risk among elderly individuals reporting regular use of tranquilizers, muscle relaxants and anti-spasmodics, and some antihistamines that block nerve responses (so-called anticholinergics).

The researchers assessed the association between the use of potentially inappropriate medications and the risk of falls in 6343 community-living men and women who were nearly 74 years old on average.

They defined inappropriate medication as drugs likely to have a greater effect on elderly individuals than on their younger counterparts, as well as medications (taken singly or with other drugs) with side effects (dizziness and drowsiness) potentially associated with increased risk for falling.

Overall, about 30 percent of study patients reported use of drugs with these qualities and during the course of the study, 22 percent of them had fallen 2 or more times.

Use of inappropriate medications increased the risk of falls, they report, and use of long-acting benzodiazepines was responsible for the main part of this increase.

Unlike regular and occasional users of long-acting benzodiazepines, men and women using short- or intermediate-acting benzodiazepines did not have an increased occurrence of falls.

Therefore, the investigators say the use of short- or intermediate-acting benzodiazepines, over long-acting anti-anxiety medications, are preferable in elderly patients.

SOURCE: BMC Geriatrics, July 23, 2009.