Overdosing of benzodiazepines/Z-drugs and falls in older adults: Costs for the health system

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Abstract

Introduction:

Benzodiazepines and Z drugs (BZD/Z drugs) are commonly used for the treatment of insomnia and anxiety in older adults for long periods of time. Given the physiological and metabolic characteristics of this group of patients, they are more prone to the adverse effects of these drugs which include falls. The recommendations for use of BZD/Z drugs include the need to adjust the dose and select those with a short half-life, to avoid adverse events, which as well as potentially affecting patient outcome, increase healthcare costs. In this study, we have evaluated the hospital-related costs associated with falls in older adults who use BZD/Z drugs at doses higher than recommended for this age group.

Methods:

We conducted a cross-sectional observational study assessing the BZD/Z drug prescriptions of older adults attending the emergency department after a fall. Cost analysis was performed for cases in which the prescriptions exceeded the maximum recommended dose for this age group.

Results:

A total of 40.6% of the prescriptions recorded were higher than the defined daily dose in older adults (DDDolderadults). Of the 57 patients who used BZD/Z drugs at higher-than-recommended doses, 53 experienced trauma and 33 required hospitalisation. The costs associated with emergency department services, tests performed and hospitalisation amounted to €1850/patient.

Conclusions:

Appropriate dosage of BZD/Z drugs in older adults could reduce both patient suffering and costs for the health system.

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