The elderly are much more likely to suffer a serious fall which leads to a hospital stay if they are taking a sedative or tranquillizer such as benzodiazepine.

This seemingly obvious connection has been made by Canadian researchers who studied the population of Saskatchewan. There were 26.2 falls per 10,000 benzodiazepine sedative users, 12.1 falls among patients using the drug as a tranquillizer and nine falls per 10,000 people not taking these drugs.

Falls seemed most likely within two weeks after the initial prescription, and mainly affected the elderly, especially those in their over 80s.

Of the benzodiazepines, flurazepam and triazolam had the highest risk of causing a fall.

The researchers estimate that nearly 95 falls per 10,000 elderly people could be avoided if they were not given benzodiazepine sedatives, and 52.8 per 10,000 if they were not prescribed the tranquillizers (Age and Ageing,1996; 25: 273-8).

About 250,000 British people are regularly taking oral steroids, but very few are doing anything to prevent the onset of steroid induced osteoporosis.

Only 14 per cent of patients had received any preventative treatment during the last five years, researchers from Nottingham University have discovered.

It has been estimated that people on steroids such as prednisolone for conditions including arthritis and asthma are twice as likely to suffer a hip fracture, while the risk increases four times among postmenopausal women.

!ABMJ, 1996; 313: 344-6.

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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