Fall-Risk-Increasing Drugs: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis: III. Others

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2018 Apr;19(4):372.e1-372.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2017.12.099. Epub 2018 Mar 2.


Background and objective: The use of psychotropic medication and cardiovascular medication has been associated with an increased risk of falling. However, other frequently prescribed medication classes are still under debate as potential risk factors for falls in the older population. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis is to evaluate the associations between fall risk and nonpsychotropic and noncardiovascular medications.

Methods and design: A systematic review and meta-analysis. A search was conducted in Medline, PsycINFO, and Embase. Key search concepts were "falls," "aged," "medication," and "causality." Studies were included that investigated nonpsychotropic and noncardiovascular medications as risk factors for falls in participants ≥60 years or participants with a mean age ≥70 years. A meta-analysis was performed using the generic inverse variance method, pooling unadjusted and adjusted odds ratio (OR) estimates separately.

Results: In a qualitative synthesis, 281 studies were included. The results of meta-analysis using adjusted data were as follows (a pooled OR [95% confidence interval]): analgesics, 1.42 (0.91-2.23); nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), 1.09 (0.96-1.23); opioids, 1.60 (1.35-1.91); anti-Parkinson drugs, 1.54 (0.99-2.39); antiepileptics, 1.55 (1.25-1.92); and polypharmacy, 1.75 (1.27-2.41). Most of the meta-analyses resulted in substantial heterogeneity that did not disappear after stratification for population and setting in most cases. In a descriptive synthesis, consistent associations with falls were observed for long-term proton pump inhibitor use and opioid initiation. Laxatives showed inconsistent associations with falls (7/20 studies showing a positive association).

Conclusion: Opioid and antiepileptic use and polypharmacy were significantly associated with increased risk of falling in the meta-analyses. Long-term use of proton pump inhibitors and opioid initiation might increase the fall risk. Future research is necessary because the causal role of some medication classes as fall-risk-increasing drugs remains unclear, and the existing literature contains significant limitations.

Keywords: Accidental falls; antiepileptic; medication classification system; opioid; polypharmacy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control
  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Benzodiazepines / adverse effects*
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Psychotropic Drugs / adverse effects*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Public Health
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Factors


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Benzodiazepines