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Starting sleeping pills can double risk of hip fracture

Older people newly prescribed sleeping pills like benzodiazepines and “Z-drugs” have over twice the odds of a hip fracture in the first two weeks compared with non-users, a new study suggests.

“While ‘Z-drugs’ are fast becoming the doctor’s hypnotic prescription of choice, there is no evidence that they are a safer alternative to benzodiazepines in relation to hip fracture risk,” says Ben Carter of the Cardiff University School of Medicine. “Our study shows that both appear to significantly increase the risk of hip fracture when newly prescribed by doctors.”

Published in PLOS ONE, the study of people over the age of 65 shows that new users of these medications experience nearly two and a half times the fracture rate, when compared with older people not taking the medications.

People considered “medium users” (15 to 30 days) had a 53 percent increased fracture risk and those identified as long-term users (longer than 30 days) showed a 20 percent increased risk.

Falls are not inevitable for older adults

“Careful consideration of the immediate increased risk of hip fracture should inform the clinical decision-making process,” Carter says. “Clinically effective measures like strength training to improve frailty, removal of hazards at home, visual correction, and a medication review are also needed to mitigate the risk of hip fractures, particularly in the first few days of use.”

The research supports previous studies linking use of hypnotics by older people with an increased risk of accidents, dependence, cognitive decline, and hip fracture. The drugs are also believed to cause drowsiness, delayed reaction times, and impaired balance.

Source: Cardiff University

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