Health staff at nursing homes often give patients sleeping pills to help them sleep, but a new study suggests that a certain class of medications may put patients at raised risk for hip fractures.
A team from Harvard Medical School in Boston looked at more than 15,500 long-stay nursing-home residents, aged 50 and older, who suffered a hip fracture between July 2007 and December 2008. The residents' average age was 81.
About 1,700 of the residents had been given a nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic sleep drug before their hip fracture. This class of drugs includes Lunesta, Sonata, Ambien, and Intermezzo.
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Those who took nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic sleep drugs were about two-thirds more likely to suffer a hip fracture than those who didn't take the drugs, according to the study, published online March 4 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
Although the study found an association between the use of the sleep medications and increased fracture risk, it wasn't designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship. The risk was somewhat higher among new users of the drugs, as well as nursing-home residents who had mild mental or physical decline (compared to more severe mental- or physical-health issues).
"Caution should be exercised when prescribing sleep medications to nursing-home residents," said Dr. Sarah Berry, of Harvard Medical School, and colleagues.