Newly prescribed sleeping pills increase risk of hip fracture

Older people newly prescribed sleeping pills like benzodiazepines and 'Z-drugs' have over double the odds of a hip fracture in the first two weeks compared with non-users, according to a new study by researchers at Cardiff University and King's College London.

Dr Ben Carter, Cardiff University's School of Medicine and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, explains: "While 'Z-drugs are fast becoming the doctor's hypnotic prescription of choice, there is no evidence that they are a safer alternative to benzodiazepines in relation to hip fracture risk.

"Our study shows that both appear to significantly increase the risk of hip fracture when newly prescribed by doctors."

The study of people aged over 65 found that new users of these hypnotic medicines experienced nearly two and a half times the fracture rate, when compared with older people not taking hypnotics. An estimated 53% increase in fracture risk was identified in medium-term users (15 to 30 days), as well as a 20% increased risk of hip fracture in long-term users (greater than 30 days).

Dr Carter added: "Careful consideration of the immediate increased risk of hip fracture should inform the clinical decision-making process. Clinically effective measures like strength training to improve frailty, removal of hazards at home, visual correction and a medication review are also needed to mitigate the risk of hip fractures, particularly in the first few days of use."

The research supports previous studies linking use of hypnotics by older people with an increased risk of accidents, dependence, cognitive decline and hip fracture. The drugs are also thought to cause drowsiness, delayed reaction times and impaired balance.

'Benzodiazepines, Z-drugs and the risk of hip fracture: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis' is published today in PLOS ONE.

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Notes to editors

This was a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies which means that although all of the evidence was gathered together, we cannot claim that newly prescribed sleeping pills like benzodiazepines and 'Z-drugs' cause hip fractures because other unmeasured factors could be involved. An experimental trial is needed to show cause and effect.

For further information contact:

Jonathan Rees
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Cardiff University
Tel: 02920 870298
Email: ReesJ37@cardiff.ac.uk

About Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain's leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK's most research intensive universities. The 2014 Research Excellence Framework ranked the University 5th in the UK for research excellence. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Professor Sir Martin Evans. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University's breadth of expertise encompasses: the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; the College of Biomedical and Life Sciences; and the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering, along with a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Cardiff's flagship Research Institutes are offering radical new approaches to pressing global problems. http://www.cardiff.ac.uk

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