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Prescribing Up for Drugs Associated With Falls in Older Adults

TUESDAY, April 13, 2021 -- Both use of fall risk-increasing drugs and mortality due to falls are on the rise in older adults, according to a study recently published online in Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety.

Amy L. Shaver, Pharm.D., from the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions in New York, and colleagues used data from the National Vital Statistics System and the medical expenditure panel survey (1999 to 2017) to assess trends in the prescription of drugs associated with fall risk (e.g., antidepressants, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, antihypertensives, opioids, sedative hypnotics, and benzodiazepines) as well as deaths due to falls in U.S. adults aged 65 years and older.

The researchers identified 374,972 fall-related mortalities and 7,858,177,122 fills of fall risk-increasing drugs. At least one fall risk-increasing drug was prescribed to 563,037,964 persons aged 65 years and older. There was an increase in age-adjusted mortality due to falls from 29.40 per 100,000 in 1999 to 63.27 per 100,000 in 2017. The percentage of persons who received at least one prescription for a fall risk-increasing drug increased from 57 percent in 1999 to 94 percent in 2017. The majority of the prescriptions were for antihypertensives, and a sharp rise was seen in prescriptions for antidepressants.

"Our study indicates two trends increasing concurrently at a population level that should be examined at the individual level," Shaver said in a statement. "Our hope is it will start more conversations on health care teams about the pros and cons of medications prescribed for vulnerable populations."

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