Drugs and falls in community-dwelling older people: a national veterans study

Dustin D. French*, Robert Campbell, Andrea Spehar, Francesca Cunningham, Tatjana Bulat, Stephen L. Luther

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Objective: The aim of this study was to identify which specific medications within recognized major problematic drug categories that increase risk of falling were prescribed to veterans before their out-patient treatment for a fall. Methods: This was a retrospective, cross-sectional national secondary outpatient data analysis with an age- and sex-matched comparison group. The setting was the national Veterans Health Administration (VHA) ambulatory health care system in fiscal year (FY) 2004. The study population was VHA patients aged ≥65 years who had fall-related outpatient clinical health care encounters in FY 2004 (as indicated by diagnostic codes) and who received ≥1 outpatient medication during the study period. The age- and sex-matched comparison group consisted of an equal number of patients with nonspecific chest pain. The percentage of patients in each group receiving medications (at the time of the outpatient encounter) that affect the cardiovascular system (CVS), central nervous system (CNS), or musculoskeletal system (MSS) was compared with Bonferrom-adjusted P values. Results: The study sample consisted of 20,551 patients; the comparison group included the same number of patients. More patients with fall-coded encounters used CNS drugs than those with nonspecific chest pain (42.05% vs 29.29%). Also, within the CNS category, more patients with fall-coded encounters used antiparkinsonian medications (3.67% vs 1.32%), Alzheimer's disease medications (ie, cholinesterase inhibitors [5.40% vs 2.35%]), anticonvulsants/barbiturates (8.95% vs 5.18%), antidepressants (22.50% vs 14.16%), antipsychotics (4.68% vs 2.01%), opioid analgesics and narcotics (11.21% vs 9.09%), and benzodiazepines (7.60% vs 5.96%) (all, P < 0.002). More patients with nonspecific chest pain received CVS drugs compared with the fall-coded group (69.13% vs 63.07%; P < 0.002). Within the CVS category, more patients in the nonspecific chest pain group received angiotensin-II receptor antagonists, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, β-blockers, calcium channel blockers, vasodilators, diuretics, and antiarrhythmics (all, P < 0.002). No differences were noted between groups in the MSS category, except for NSAIDs, which more patients in the nonspecific chest pain group used than in the fall-coded group (6.44% vs 5.63%; P < 0.002). Conclusion: In this study, subjects with a health care encounter for a fall (as indicated by diagnostic code) were prescribed significantly more CNS-category medications than subjects in the age- and sex-matched comparison group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-630
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Therapeutics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • accidental falls
  • chest pain
  • patient safety
  • pharmaco-epidemiology
  • veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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