Nursing home residents with dementia at greater risk for falls with some antidepressants, study reveals

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Depressed nursing home residents with dementia are three times more likely to have serious falls if they take certain medications, a new study reveals. The study author calls for consideration of new treatment protocols.

Residents who were on a class of antidepressants known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) had a greater risk of falling as the dose of the medication rose, said lead author Carolyn Shanty Sterke, Section of Geriatric Medicine at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands.

Sterke looked at 248 nursing home residents with dementia over two years. Incident records showed 152 of the residents had a total of 683 falls. While the risk for an 80-year-old woman not taking SSRIs was .09%, it was .28% if she was taking the medication.

The risk increased even more if the residents were given hypnotic or sedative drugs, Sterke added, cautioning physicians to consider the fall risk when prescribing SSRIs. “I think we should consider developing new treatment protocols that take into account the increased risk of falling that occurs when you give people SSRIs," she said.

The study was published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

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