If You're Over 65, These Common Medications Pose High Risks, Study Says

New research shows that some regularly prescribed medications aren't safe for everyone.

When it comes to the medications we get prescribed, we don't typically think twice. After all, it's easy to assume your doctor knows best. However, many medications can affect people differently depending on various factors, which means these pills could be safe for some and dangerous for others. In fact, according to recent research, several frequently prescribed drugs may actually be putting you in danger if you've over 65. Read on to find out if you're taking these common medications, and for more medication to be careful with, If You're Taking This Medication, the FDA Has a New Warning for You.

Nearly every adult 65 and older is prescribed a medication that increases their risk of falling.

Senior woman taking pill and Video call consulting with doctor asking for medicine description on laptop computer while sitting on kitchen table at home. Video Conference
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Researchers from the University at Buffalo sought to examine the correlation of deaths due to falls and prescription medicines among people 65 and older between 1999 to 2017, publishing their findings Feb. 3 in the journal Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety. According to the study, more than 563,000,000 people 65 and older were given at least one medication that increases fall risk in 2017—which is 94 percent of people in this age group. And for more health concerns, If You Feel This at Night, You Need to Get Your Liver Checked, Doctors Say.

Many common medications can be classified as "fall risk increasing."

Elderly woman pouring pills from bottle on hand, closeup view
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Fall risk increasing medications include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, antihypertensives, opioids, sedative hypnotics, and benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Xanax. According to the study, the most commonly prescribed fall risk increasing medications for older adults are antihypertensives, which are used to treat high blood pressure. However, researchers also said that there has been a sharp rise in the use of antidepressants, which climbed from 12 million prescriptions in 1999 to more than 52 million in 2017.

"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," lead investigator for the study Amy Shaver, PharmD, postdoctoral associate with the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions, said in a statement. "However, it is important to note that these medications are still associated with increased risks of falls and fractures among older adults." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Thousands of people aged 65 and older die from falls each year.

Old men helping wife who falled down on floor
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among those who are 65 and older. The rate of fall-related mortalities is about 64 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the agency. The CDC says that one in four U.S. residents aged 65 and older reports falling each year, and there are an estimated three million fall-related emergency department visits every year. And for more guidance for older adults, If You're Over 65, the CDC Says to Expect This After Your COVID Vaccine.

Both the rate of prescribed fall risk increasing medications and death from falls is increasing.

Shot of a senior man reading the label on a medicine container and talking on a cellphone
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Researchers say the percent of people aged 65 and older receiving at least one prescription for a fall risk increasing medication rose from 57 percent in 1999 to 94 percent in 2017. During the same time period, the rate of death caused by falls for people in this age group also more than doubled. According to the study, "fall risk increasing drugs may partially explain the increase in mortality due to falls," but that cannot be absolutely concluded by the current study.

"Our study indicates two trends increasing concurrently at a population level that should be examined at the individual level," Shaver said. "Our hope is it will start more conversations on health care teams about the pros and cons of medications prescribed for vulnerable populations." And for more health warnings for seniors, If You're Over 65, You Could Be Missing This COVID Symptom, Study Says.

Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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