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94% of older adults receive drugs that increase fall risk: study

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Buffalo, NY — Nearly 95% of people 65 and older are prescribed at least one drug that increases their risk of falls, according to the results of a recent study.

Researchers from the University of Buffalo looked at data from the National Vital Statistics Systems and the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey from 1999 to 2017 for people who were at least 65 years old. That data included around 7.8 billion filled prescriptions for at least one drug that could increase the risk of falls and nearly 375,000 fall-related deaths.

Results showed that, in 2017, 94% of the adults studied received at least one drug that upped their fall risk, compared with 57% in 1999. Researchers cite an increase in antidepressant prescriptions, which rose to more than 52 million in 2017 from 12 million in 1999.


“The rise in the use of antidepressant medications seen in this study is likely related to the use of these agents as safer alternatives to older medications for conditions such as depression and anxiety,” lead author Amy Shaver, a postdoctoral associate in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions, said in a press release. “However, it is important to note that these medications are still associated with increased risks of falls and fractures among older adults.”

The study was published Feb. 3 in the journal Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety.

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