Inpatient sleeping drug quadrupled fall risk

November 19, 2012

A drug commonly prescribed to help patients sleep in hospitals has been associated with an increased risk of falls, according to a study published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

U.S. sleep specialists from the Mayo Clinic found that the fall rate among the 4,962 patients who took zolpidem during their hospital stay was more than four times as high as the 11,358 who did not take the drug.

They also found that the risk posed by the drug was greater than the risks posed by factors such as age, , or insomnia, regardless of the dosage used.

"Ensuring that people get enough sleep during their hospital stay is very important, but it can also prove very challenging," says the Clinic's Chief Patient Safety Officer Dr. Timothy I. Morgenthaler, who specializes in and pulmonary and critical care.

"Patient falls are also a significant issue in hospitals and one that has been quite difficult to tackle, despite considerable efforts. That is why it is one of the target aims of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Partnership for Patients project."

"Discovering that zolpidem, which is commonly used in hospitals, is a significant risk factor for patient falls provides us with additional knowledge to help tackle this problem."

Key findings of the study include:

  • Just under 39 percent of eligible admissions during 2010 were prescribed zolpidem (16,320 patients) but 88 percent of the prescriptions were issued on an "as needed basis."
  • Zolpidem was administered to 30.4 percent of patients who were prescribed it and to 11.8 percent of all Mayo Clinic admissions in 2010.
  • Just over three percent of the patients on zolpidem fell during their in-patient hospital stay, compared with 0.7 percent of the patients who did not take zolpidem.
  • Zolipdem use continued to be associated with an increased fall risk when other key factors, including health, length of hospital stay and assessed fall risk, were taken into consideration.
"Our hospitals have an overall fall rate of about 2.5 per 1000 patient days, which is lower than many national benchmarks. However, we have not been able to significantly reduce this rate in recent years. Now, we calculate that for every 55 patients who received zolpidem, there was one additional fall that may have been avoided by not administering the drug," says Dr. Morgenthaler.

"As a result of our study, we are now phasing out and moving toward sleep enhancement techniques that are not based on drugs and which we believe are safer and probably as effective."

Explore further: US approves drug for middle-of-the-night insomniacs

More information: Morgenthaler et al. Zolpidem is Independently Associated with Increased Risk of Inpatient Falls. Journal of Hospital Medicine. DOI: 10.1002/jhm.1985

Related Stories

US approves drug for middle-of-the-night insomniacs

November 23, 2011
The US Food and Drug Administration, for the first time, approved Wednesday medication specifically designed for those who wake up in the middle of the night and cannot fall back to sleep.

Educating heart patients, families cut one hospital's falls by 64 percent

May 15, 2011
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center had noticed that, despite a hospital-wide program to prevent patient falls, the cardiovascular progressive care unit experienced an increase in the rate of patient falls. ...

Recommended for you

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

Scientists develop new supplement that can repair, rejuvenate muscles in older adults

July 18, 2017
Whey protein supplements aren't just for gym buffs according to new research from McMaster university. When taken on a regular basis, a combination of these and other ingredients in a ready-to-drink formula have been found ...

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.