Almost All Drugs Prescribed For Seniors That Increase Risk Of Falls, UB Study Finds

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Almost all seniors were prescribed a prescription drug that increased their risk for falls in 2017, according to a new study from UB.

The study found that the percentage of adults aged 65 and over who were prescribed medication that increases the risk of falls rose to 94% in 2017, a significant jump from 57% in 1999. research also found that the death rate from falls in the elderly more than doubled during the same period.

Even minor falls can be dangerous for the elderly. Falls that are not fatal can still lead to injuries – such as hip fractures and head trauma – which can dramatically reduce the quality of remaining life. Each year, nearly $ 50 billion is spent on medical bills related to falls in the elderly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The alarming results reinforce the importance of interventions to deprescribe potentially inappropriate medications in older and more frail patients, says Amy Shaver, senior researcher and postdoctoral associate in the School of Public Health and the Health Professions.

“Our study indicates two trends that are increasing simultaneously at the population level and which should be looked at at the individual level. We hope this will spark more conversations within healthcare teams about the pros and cons of drugs prescribed to vulnerable populations, ”Shaver said.

Additional researchers from the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences include Collin Clark, clinical assistant professor; David Jacobs, assistant professor; Robert Wahler Jr., associate clinical professor; and Mary Hejna, pharmacy resident at Kaleida Health.

Recently published in Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, the study examined data on deaths from falls and filling prescriptions in people 65 and older from the National Vital Statistics System and the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. .

Drugs that increase the risk of falls include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, antihypertensives (for high blood pressure), opioids, sedative hypnotics, and benzodiazepines (tranquilizers like Valium and Xanax), as well as other over-the-counter medications.

From 1999 to 2017, more than 7.8 billion orders for fall risk drugs were filled by seniors in the United States. The majority of prescriptions were for antihypertensive drugs. However, there has also been a sharp increase in the use of antidepressants, from 12 million prescriptions in 1999 to more than 52 million in 2017.

“The increase in the use of antidepressant drugs seen in this study is likely related to the use of these agents as safer alternatives to older drugs for conditions such as depression and anxiety,” says Shaver. “However, it is important to note that these drugs are still associated with increased risks of falls and fractures in the elderly.”

Women were also more likely than men to be prescribed drugs that increase the risk of falls, especially black women, who received the drugs at the highest rate compared to women of other races. White women aged 85 and over experienced the largest increase in deaths from falls, increasing 160% between 1999 and 2017.

Researchers are involved in multidisciplinary deprescribing initiatives led through Team Alice and the UB Center for Successful Aging. Efforts encourage and assess patient / caregiver-initiated conversations about deprescribing with healthcare providers, promote interprofessional education on deprescribing, and advocate for policy and system changes.

The research was funded in part by the National Cancer Institute.


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