RISKY FALLS: Psychotropic medication can double the risk of falls and hip fractures for the elderly.
RISKY FALLS: Psychotropic medication can double the risk of falls and hip fractures for the elderly. Obencem

Studies show medication increasing fall risks for elderly

MANY Australians take psychotropic medications for an array of health reasons, from epilepsy to anxiety and depression as recommended by their doctors.

However, as new information has come forward in the latest edition of the Australian Prescriber, Professor Libby Roughead writes about how these drugs can affect and increase the risk of hip fractures.

Their study shows that in 2018 an estimated 28,000 Australians over 50 years old were hospitalised with a hip fracture and showed how taking antidepressants or opioids doubles the risk of a fall and hip fracture as a result.

"Antidepressants, particularly SSRIs, opioids, anti-epileptic medicines, benzodiazepines which are used to treat anxiety and antipsychotics which are used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder all increase the risk of hip fractures,” said Dr Roughead.

According to Dr Roughead, combining them increases the risk further.

"Benzodiazepines and SSRIs, when started together, increase the risk of hip fracture five-fold. This equates to one extra hip fracture for every 17 patients aged 80 years and over who are treated for a year,” she said.

If at all possible, Dr Roughead hopes doctors can prioritise reconsidering if certain medications are still necessary.

"We suggest to prescribers they consider whether their patients really need some of their medicines any more - for example, an SSRI antidepressant may no longer be required if a patient is fully recovered from depression,” she said.

"Similarly, it may be possible to stop an antipsychotic in someone with dementia. Doctors should try stopping one medicine at a time and reducing the medicine slowly over weeks or months.”

In the published research, Dr Roughead explains how the risks can be lowered by adopting other health interventions.

"Exercise classes that focus on improving balance and building strength can reduce the risk of falls. An occupational therapist can improve home safety, a podiatrist can help if a patient has foot pain, and regular eyesight checks can help too,” she said.