Study finds adverse respiratory outcomes for older people with COPD taking benzodiazepines

April 17, 2014

A group of drugs commonly prescribed for insomnia, anxiety and breathing issues "significantly increase the risk" that older people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, need to visit a doctor or Emergency Department for respiratory reasons, new research has found.

Benzodiazepines, such as Ativan or Xanax, may actually contribute to , such as depressing breathing ability and pneumonia, in these patients, said Dr. Nicholas Vozoris, a respirologist at St. Michael's Hospital.

Dr. Vozoris said the findings are significant, given that 5 to 10 per cent of the Canadian population has COPD (also known as emphysema), which is mainly caused by smoking. His previous research has shown that 30 per cent of older Canadians with COPD are prescribed benzodiazepines.

His new research was published online today in the European Respiratory Journal. Dr. Vozoris said he believes this is the first study to look at clinical outcomes of COPD patients prescribed these drugs. He used databases at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Studies to identify older adults in Ontario who had been diagnosed with COPD, as well as prescription, health insurance and hospitalization records.

He found that COPD patients who had been newly prescribed a benzodiazepine were at 45 per cent increased risk of having an exacerbation of requiring outpatient treatment. They were at 92 per cent greater risk of needing to visit an Emergency Department for COPD or pneumonia. There was an elevated, but not statistically significant, risk of also being hospitalized for respiratory reasons.

He said the findings were consistent even after taking into account the severity of the person's illness – i.e. they were true for people with less advanced and more advanced COPD.

"Physicians, when prescribing these pills, need to be careful, use caution and monitor the patients for respiratory side effects," said Dr. Vozoris. "Patients also need to watch for respiratory-related symptoms."

Related Stories

Two-mile daily walk might help fight COPD

March 6, 2014

(HealthDay)—Taking daily walks of at least two miles can reduce hospitalizations from severe episodes of a life-threatening breathing disorder, new research suggests.

Recommended for you

Experimental MERS vaccine shows promise in animal studies

July 28, 2015

A two-step regimen of experimental vaccines against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) prompted immune responses in mice and rhesus macaques, report National Institutes of Health scientists who designed the vaccines. ...

Can social isolation fuel epidemics?

July 21, 2015

Conventional wisdom has it that the more people stay within their own social groups and avoid others, the less likely it is small disease outbreaks turn into full-blown epidemics. But the conventional wisdom is wrong, according ...

Lack of knowledge on animal disease leaves humans at risk

July 20, 2015

Researchers from the University of Sydney have painted the most detailed picture to date of major infectious diseases shared between wildlife and livestock, and found a huge gap in knowledge about diseases which could spread ...

IBD genetically similar in Europeans and non-Europeans

July 20, 2015

The first genetic study of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to include individuals from diverse populations has shown that the regions of the genome underlying the disease are consistent around the world. This study, conducted ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.