Link between multiple medication and falls

October 27, 2017

Older people who take a combination of at least five different drugs are 21% more likely to fall over, a Leicester study into medication and falls has found.

Falls can cause serious injuries and treating them can be costly to the NHS, which is why a team of researchers from the Leicester Diabetes Centre wanted to see whether polypharmacy, the name given for taking multiple medications, has an impact.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends tailored care for people with multi-morbidity, mainly taking 10 or more different drugs. However, the latest findings have shown there’s a risk in those who take half that amount of medication.

The study used data on more than 5,000 people from a group of people aged 60 or over, where they were asked to self-report on the drugs they had taken within the last two years.

A total of 35% of those who said they took more than five treatments reported a fall within two years. The results suggested the incidents of falls over two years, were 21% higher in those taking five or more drugs compared to those who take fewer.

Dr Nafeesa Dhalwani, Lecturer in Epidemiology at the University of Leicester, who led the study, said, 'Our work has important clinical implications as falls are the fifth leading cause of death in elderly adults and account for more than 80% of injury-related admissions to hospital in this population.

'Therefore, a multidisciplinary approach is required to optimise drug treatments in the elderly and minimise harm.'

Professor Kamlesh Khunti, who is Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester and was co-investigator on the study, said, 'We believe our findings suggest that people who use five or more drugs are at a significantly increased rate of falls and primary health care professionals should review these patients with a view to reviewing their medications and monitoring their risk of falls.'

The study findings have been published in BMJ Open.

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