Want to Fall Down and Break Something? Keep Popping Those Pills

Pill Popping

Common prescriptions now linked to serious falls in elderly patients

Well, don’t you just have to hand it to healthcare.

It seems that half of the most frequently doled-out drugs to older adults by doctors can be counted on to raise their frequency of falls, at least according to a recent study.

Researchers studying the medical records of 64,000 Swedish patients over age 65 learned that antidepressants and narcotics for pain were tied to a greater likelihood of patients being injured in a fall. In fact, out of the 20 medications studied, severe injuries were linked to 11 of them.

A research author, Ms. Jette Moller of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said, “Medications that affect the central nervous system – such as hypnotics, sedatives, analgesics and antidepressants,” are the most strongly linked to falls.

The data show that elderly males and females prescribed narcotic painkillers, and males taking antidepressants, were twice as vulnerable to have a fall injury as those not taking those drugs. Women taking antidepressants are far more likely to have a fall injury.

Although medications may improve the quality of life of the elderly, Moller believes the risk of being seriously injured in a fall must be a factor in deciding whether to take them.

“Patients should be able to make informed decisions about the medication they take. Fall injuries are a serious threat to the health and well-being of older people in their own right and this needs to be acknowledged,” she told Reuters Health in an email.

The full study can be seen in the most recent issue of the European Journal of Public Health.



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