By Tara Parker-PopeJuly 11, 2008, 9:26 am
Researchers at the University of North Carolina have published a lengthy list of prescription drugs that increase the risk of falling among older patients.
Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries in adults 65 and older. An estimated 300,000 hip fractures occur each year, often as a result of falling. Head injury is also a problem among adults who fall.
Adults who take four or more medications at a time are at highest risk for falling. But certain types of drugs can also make someone more prone to falling, said Susan Blalock, an associate professor at the U.N.C. Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
The medications on the list cover a wide range of common prescription seizure medications and painkillers, among others. Also on the list are popular antidepressants like Celexa, Effexor, Wellbutrin, Prozac and others.
Researchers said the “common denominator” among the drugs on the list is that they all work to depress the central nervous system, which makes patients less alert and slower to react. The list was published in the June issue of The American Journal of Geriatric Pharmacotherapy.
Stefanie Ferreri, the lead author of the paper and a clinical assistant professor in the pharmacy school, said that patients need to be wary of more than just prescription medications, because many over-the-counter medications can also contribute to falls.
“Some allergy medications, sleep aids and some cold and cough remedies can have the same effects as prescription drugs,” Dr. Ferreri said. “Anything that can cause drowsiness can put you at increased risk of falling.”
The researchers warned that if patients see a drug they are taking on the list, they should not stop taking it. Many drugs can trigger serious side effects if stopped abruptly. But patients should talk to their doctors about falling risk and possible alternative medications, the researchers said.
Physicians should look for medications that have been proven safe and effective in older adults and look for medicines that have less of a sedating effect. Physicians should be especially wary of anticholinergics, a class of drugs that affect nerve cells used to treat a wide range of conditions.
To download the complete list of the prescription medications that increase the risk of falls, click here.