Some medications increase your risk of falling—either on their own or when two or more are combined. As you age, the way some medications affect you can change and increase your risk of falling.
Glen Schoepp, Pharmacy Manager at St. Anthony’s Clinic in Victoria, has some information on medications and how they can increase your risk of falls and what you can do about it.
Common drugs that increase fall risk
High-risk drugs for falls include:
- alpha-blockers (e.g., tamsulosin, terazosin);
- levodopa (can cause or aggravate orthostatic hypotension);
- painkillers (opioids);
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., ibuprofen, naproxen);
- anticonvulsants (eg., phenytoin);
- drugs for overactive bladder (eg., oxybutynin, tolterodine);
- sleeping pills (e.g., zopiclone);
- and drugs to treat agitation or psychoses (e.g., risperdone, quetiapine).
People with diabetes who are treated with insulin are also more likely to experience an unwanted fall if their blood sugars become too low. “Polypharmacy,” which is the use of 5 or more medications, can greatly increase your overall risk of falls. Aggressive prescribing of anti-hypertensive drugs (e.g., diuretics or water pills) may result in excessive lowering of blood pressure and lead to falls.
Falls affect not only the individual who fell, but their families and communities. Your pharmacist can conduct a government-funded comprehensive drug review to determine if your medication(s) are to blame for falls. They can also see if you are at risk of falls, and report their findings to your doctor. Never stop taking your medications or change your dose without first consulting your doctor!
Strategies to prevent falls involve more than simply assessing the effects of medications. There are typically other important factors at play. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist and take a close look at the risks associated with your underlying medical conditions and your current health.
Be aware and learn as much as possible about the effects of your medications. This can help you reduce your risk of injury or fractures, protect your independence, and maintain your general wellness. A multidisciplinary team of health care professionals can help you reach these goals. Don’t hesitate to bring medications and falls into the center of the conversation with your doctor or pharmacist—the discussion could be a life-saver!