University of British ColumbiaFalls among elderly people appear to be considerably associated with several classes of drugs. These drugs may perhaps include sedatives, often prescribed as sleep aids and medicines used to treat mood disorders. Atleast this is what a latest study from the University of British Columbia claims.

For the purpose of the study, the authors were noted to have examined the effects of nine classes of drugs. Furthermore, they updated, expanded and analyzed 22 international observational studies from 1996-2007 in turn investigating falls among people aged 60 years or older. The analysis was believed to have comprised data on more than 79,000 participants and both prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

The authors found that antidepressants seem to have revealed the strongest statistical association with falling. This could possibly be because older drugs in this class have major sedative properties. Moreover, anti-psychotics or neuroleptics frequently used to treat schizophrenia and other psychoses and benzodiazepines such as valium were also significantly linked with falls.

Chief author of the study, Carlo Marra, a UBC associate professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, a Canada Research Chair in Pharmaceutical Outcomes in the Collaboration for Outcomes Research and Evaluation based in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences and a member of the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility, part of Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute said that, “These findings reinforce the need for judicious use of medications in elderly people at risk of falling. Safer alternatives, such as counseling, shorter-term or less-sedating therapies, may be more appropriate for certain conditions.”

Marra stated that narcotics i.e. painkillers were not found to be statistically associated with falling among the classes studied. However, this finding may perhaps require more investigation. Other medicine classes studied appear to include anti-hypertensives which are used to reduce blood pressure, diuretics, beta-blockers used to treat heart conditions and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

“Elderly people may be more sensitive to drugs’ effects and less efficient at metabolizing medications, leading to adverse events, which in turn lead to falls,” adds Marra, who is also a research scientist at the Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences at Providence Health.

According to the study, prescribing medicines to seniors seemed to have increased considerably over the past decade. For instance, the BC Rx Atlas, newly published by UBC researchers, shows that more than one in seven people aged 80 or older appear to have filled at least one antidepressant prescription in 2006.

The findings of the study apparently provide the novel quantitative evidence of the impact of certain classes of medicine on falling amongst seniors. Falling and fall-related complications such as hip fractures are known to be the fifth leading cause of death in the developed countries.

Additionally, determining which medicine classes are associated with falls could perhaps remain a challenge. This is because seniors are frequently on multiple medicines for multiple health conditions, with fresh drugs entering the market on a daily basis. In a follow-up study, Marra aims to investigate how pharmacists can recognize patients at risk of falling and educate them about medicine use to ensure their safety.

The findings of the study have been published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.