Prescription drugs that raise the risk of elderly patients falling have been enlisted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for adults 65 and older, and research suggests that those taking four or more medications are at an even greater risk than those who don't - perhaps two to three times greater," said Dr. Susan Blalock, an associate professor at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
She revealed that the enlisting of such prescription drugs was done as part of an ongoing study of a falls-prevention program, which her team had developed for pharmacists to implement.
"What we've done as part of our study is to identify specific prescription drugs that are most likely to contribute to the falls," she said.
The researcher revealed that the list included a wide range of common prescription antidepressants, seizure medications, painkillers and more.
She even revealed that all the drugs on the list work to depress the central nervous system, which can make patients less alert and slower to react.
Stefanie Ferreri, lead author of the paper, suggests that patients better understand that other over-the-counter medications may also contribute to falls.
"Some allergy medications, sleep aids and some cold and cough remedies can have the same effects as prescription drugs. Always let your doctor know what over-the-counter medications you are taking and be sure to read the labels. Anything that can cause drowsiness can put you at increased risk of falling," Ferreri said.
The researchers, however, also suggest that patients do not stop taking a medicine just because it is on their list.
It would be better that they talk to their doctor about the risk of falling as well as possible alternative medicines, they say.
The researcher also recommend doctors to look for medications that have been proven safe and effective in older adults, and for medicines that have less of a sedating effect.
Doctors should especially be wary of anticholinergics, a class of drugs that affect nerve cells used to treat a wide range of conditions, they add.
According to the researchers, pharmacists should be alert for patients 65 and older who are taking four or more drugs, and be sure the patients know about the additional risk of falling created by their medications.
Both the list of prescription drugs and some of the study's finding were published in the American Journal of Geriatric Pharmacotherapy.