Booster Shots

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Drugs that contribute to falls

July 9, 2008 | 10:10 am

Earlier today we talked about research indicating the best way to take a tumble -- basically, to fall like a skydiver does, softening the blow to the hips and reducing the risk of a hip fracture.

Another group of scientists have compiled a list of prescription medications that are most likely to contribute to falls in senior citizens regularly taking four or more medications. You can access the list, put together by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, here. It's published in the American Journal of Geriatric Pharmacotherapy, where you can access the full article. (It's so nice when articles are actually posted online for free -- and too rare, I.M.O.)

The authors aren't saying that people on the drugs should just stop taking them -- but they do suggest patients talk with their doctors about possible alternative medications. They suggest that doctors consider the fall risk when prescribing medications to their patients, and that pharmacists alert patients to the fall risk when prescriptions are being filled.

What the meds have in common: To some degree or another, they sedate, reducing alertness and thus reaction times. Drugs in the list run the gamut -- including antidepressants, seizure meds and painkillers. (The authors say doctors should be especially aware of so-called anticholinergic drugs.) And they remind us that over-the-counter meds of various kinds can also cause drowsiness, including some allergy meds, sleeping aids and cough and cold remedies.

While we're at it, here's a useful resource on driving, drowsiness and medications. Many of the issues are the same.

-- Rosie Mestel