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Medication and Falls

While medications are important tools for the management of chronic disease or treatment of illness, and many carry important benefits and improve overall health and survival, they may also cause unintended side effects that can increase the chance of experiencing a fall. People who take four or more medications, or take them incorrectly, are at greater risk of falling. Therefore, medication management is essential to health maintenance, especially as the number of medications and conditions increases with age.

How do medications increase the risk of falling?

Certain types of medications can cause side effects that may increase the risk of falling such as dizziness, lightheadedness or drowsiness. Some examples of medications that may increase the risk of falls include those taken to help with:

  • Allergies: antihistamines such as Benadryl, chlorpheniramine, hydroxyzine
  • Pain: narcotics/opioids, amitriptyline, cyclobenzaprine, tramadol, gabapentin
  • Sleep: amitriptyline, gabapentin, trazodone, Ambien
  • Anxiety: benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan
  • Depression: amitriptyline, doxepin, fluoxetine, paroxetine
  • Abnormal Heart Rate or Rhythm: digoxin
  • Nausea: compazine, meclizine, metoclopramide, promethazine
  • Bladder/Prostate: oxybutynin, terazosin, doxazosin
  • Diabetes: glyburide, glipizide, insulin

Interactions between medications, herbal supplements, vitamins and minerals can magnify medication side effects and make them more intense.

What can you do to minimize the risk of falling?

  • Carry a current list of all medications. Include prescription, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, herbal supplements, vitamins and minerals. Review this list with your health care provider at every visit.
  • Check with your health care provider and/or pharmacist before you take any new OTC medications, herbal supplements, vitamins or minerals.
  • Get all prescriptions filled at one pharmacy.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol when taking medications.
  • Develop a system to take your medications and let others help if needed. Consider medication boxes or bubble packing. Check with your pharmacy to see if they can help!
  • Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about side effects and interactions of your medications.

What is a Comprehensive Medication Review (CMR)?

A CMR is a sit down visit with a pharmacist to review all of your medications to determine how safe and effective they are. Many local pharmacies over this service and most insurance companies cover the cost of these services. Pharmacists are the medication experts and can work with your health care provider to optimize your medication regimen. Contact your pharmacy to inquire if CMR services are offered for you!