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Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2002 Mar;11(2):97-104.

Medication use and risk of falls.

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University of Ottawa Institute on Health of the Elderly, 43 Bruyère Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1N 5C8.



Injuries due to falls are an important public health concern, particularly for the elderly, and effective prevention is an ongoing endeavour. The present study has two related objectives: (1) to describe associations between drug use and falls in an institutionalized population, and (2) to identify a high risk subgroup within the larger population.


The initial analysis was based on a population of 227 residents who were followed over a 1-year period. Logistic regression techniques were used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) of the association of falls and drug use. The study of potential 'high-risk' groups employed a case-crossover design to estimate the risk of falling associated with starting a new drug course.


Relatively weak ORs for risk of falling were observed for various drug classes; the highest OR was for benzodiazepines (BZD) at OR = 1.8 (unadjusted). Residents taking multiple drugs were at particular risk for falling, e.g. an OR of 6.1 for those using 10+ drugs. The case-crossover analysis indicated that residents starting a new BZD/antipsychotic were at very high risk (OR = 11.4) for experiencing a fall.


Residents who took many different types of medications, as well as residents starting a new BZD/antipsychotics were at greatly increased risk of falling. These are high risk groups where increased monitoring or adjustments to drug regimens could lead to prevention of falls.

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