Medication-related falls in the elderly: causative factors and preventive strategies

Drugs Aging. 2012 May 1;29(5):359-76. doi: 10.2165/11599460-000000000-00000.


People are living to older age. Falls constitute a leading cause of injuries, hospitalization and deaths among the elderly. Older people fall more often for a variety of reasons: alterations in physiology and physical functioning, and the use (and misuse) of medications needed to manage their multiple conditions. Pharmacological factors that place the elderly at greater risk of drug-related side effects include changes in body composition, serum albumin, total body water, and hepatic and renal functioning. Drug use is one of the most modifiable risk factors for falls and falls-related injuries. Fall-risk increasing drugs (FRIDs) include drugs for cardiovascular diseases (such as digoxin, type 1a anti-arrhythmics and diuretics), benzodiazepines, antidepressants, antiepileptics, antipsychotics, antiparkinsonian drugs, opioids and urological spasmolytics. Psychotropic and benzodiazepine drug use is most consistently associated with falls. Despite the promise of a more favourable side-effect profile, evidence shows that atypical antipsychotic medications and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants do not reduce the risk of falls and hip fractures. Despite multiple efforts with regards to managing medication-associated falls, there is no clear evidence for an effective intervention. Stopping or lowering the dose of psychotropic drugs and benzodiazepines does work, but ensuring a patient remains off these drugs is a challenge. Computer-assisted alerts coupled with electronic prescribing tools are a promising approach to lowering the risk of falls as the use of information technologies expands within healthcare.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accident Prevention / methods*
  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Hip Fractures / epidemiology
  • Hip Fractures / etiology
  • Hip Fractures / prevention & control
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors