Benzodiazepines Tied to Higher Pneumonia Risk in Patients with Alzheimer's — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
April 10, 2017

Benzodiazepines Tied to Higher Pneumonia Risk in Patients with Alzheimer's

By Kelly Young

Edited by Susan Sadoughi, MD, and André Sofair, MD, MPH

Benzodiazepine use is associated with increased pneumonia risk among patients with Alzheimer disease, according to an observational study in CMAJ.

Using Finnish registries, researchers matched 8500 community-dwelling adults with Alzheimer disease who started taking benzodiazepines or Z-drugs (zolpidem or zopiclone) to Alzheimer's patients who weren’t taking these drugs. Use of benzodiazepines was associated with a 28% higher risk for pneumonia than nonuse (8.51 vs. 6.57 pneumonia cases per 100 person-years). The risk was only apparent in the first 30 days of use. Use of Z-drugs was not associated with pneumonia risk.

The authors say that sedation associated with benzodiazepine use could increase aspiration risk, which could then lead to pneumonia.

Commentators conclude: "Nonpharmacologic approaches should be the starting point when managing neuropsychiatric symptoms in this patient population, which should help to limit inappropriate use of these drugs. For individuals already receiving benzodiazepines or Z-drugs, this study's findings underline the importance of regularly reviewing medications and re-evaluating their need."

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