Diabetes medications related to an increased risk of falls and fall-related morbidity in the elderly

Ann Pharmacother. 2010 Apr;44(4):712-7. doi: 10.1345/aph.1M551. Epub 2010 Mar 9.


Objective: To review literature regarding the effect of diabetes medications as a contributing risk for falls and fall-related morbidity in elderly patients with type 2 diabetes.

Data sources: Primary literature was identified through PubMed MEDLINE (1966-November 2009) using the search terms elderly, aged, older adults, diabetes type 2, diabetes mellitus, falls, fractures, medication, hypoglycemia, and vitamin B(12) deficiency. Each drug class and the individual agents within the classes were also included in the search. Additional references were obtained through review of references from articles obtained.

Study selection and data extraction: Clinical studies evaluating diabetes medications and their association with falls, as well as studies evaluating their association with the complications of falls, were considered for inclusion. Selection emphasis was placed on randomized studies evaluating diabetes medications and falls.

Data synthesis: There is no direct link between metformin and falls; however, an indirect association caused by neuropathy secondary to vitamin B(12) deficiency may be of concern. Although hypoglycemia is a risk factor, to date, there are no trials specifically linking insulin secretagogues to falls. Insulin use has been demonstrated to increase the risk of falls in the elderly. Thiazolidinediones increase fracture risk and thus may worsen fall-related outcomes. There are no studies to date linking other agents to an increased risk of falls.

Conclusions: Special considerations should be made when treating elderly patients with diabetes. At this time, a patient's functional level and risk factors for falls should weigh into decision-making regarding drug selection. The risk of falls and fall-related complications associated with diabetes medications should not be ignored.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Diabetes Complications*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Insulin / adverse effects
  • Insulin / agonists
  • Metformin / adverse effects
  • Risk
  • Thiazolidinediones / adverse effects
  • Thiazolidinediones / therapeutic use


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin
  • Thiazolidinediones
  • Metformin