Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Study Debunks Sedative's Link to Hip Fractures in Elderly

(HealthDay News) -- Sedative drugs called benzodiazepines (such as Valium) don't increase the risk of hip fractures in the elderly, a Harvard Medical School study says.

The finding suggests that U.S. federal and state policies that restrict access to these drugs among the elderly need to be re-examined, the study authors added. Their work is published in the Jan. 16 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Concerns about misuse and the adverse effects of benzodiazepines have led to federal and state laws that regulate access to the drugs. For example, since 2006, benzodiazepines have been excluded from coverage through the Medicare Part D benefit, according to background information in a news release.

Hip fractures often lead to disability and death in older people.

In this study, researchers examined hip fracture rates among more than 90,000 Medicaid recipients aged 65 and older before and after the state of New York implemented tight controls on benzodiazepine prescriptions in 1989. The researchers also looked at hip fracture rates in New Jersey, which did not put restrictions on benzodiazepine prescriptions.

The New York policy resulted in an immediate 60 percent drop in benzodiazepine use among elderly women and a 58 percent decline among men. But there was little change in the incidence of hip fractures.

"The policy drastically decreased use of benzodiazepines in New York, and we did not see any decline in hip fracture rates compared to New Jersey; in fact, we seem to see an increase in New York over New Jersey," study author Anita Wagner, an assistant professor of ambulatory care and prevention at Harvard Medical School, said in a prepared statement.

She said biases in previous studies may have led researchers to make a link between benzodiazepines and hip fractures.

"It is very challenging to answer the question whether or not benzodiazepines cause hip fractures. People who get benzodiazepines, such as chronically ill elderly patients with dementia, have conditions, like dementia, that can cause hip fractures -- and their hip fractures may not be due to their benzodiazepines," Wagner said.

More information
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about benzodiazepines.

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