Higher rates of mortality seen with benzodiazepine sedatives, study says

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Continuous infusion benzodiazepines, a group of sedatives often used to treat intensive-care unit patients on ventilators, are linked to an increased likelihood of death compared to those who received propofol, a new study says.

Nursing home residents can end up in the ICU on ventilators, and University of Utah researchers note that medications such as lorazepam and midazolam were once considered the standard of care. But those with renal failure or liver dysfunction are more likely to be over-sedated, said principal author Nick Lonardo, Pharm.D. He and author Richard Barton, M.D., analyzed data on close to 14,000 mechanically ventilated patients from 2003 to 2009.

The mortality was 19.7% in propofol-treated patients compared to nearly 29% in midazolam-treated patients, and 19.3% for propofol-treated patients compared to 25% for lorazepa-treated patients.

While this is the first study to link benzodiazepines with increased mortality, others have debated the use of the drugs with the elderly.

Results were published in American Journal of Respiratory Clinical Care Medicine.