Benzodiazepine Use Among Alzheimer's Patients May Up Pneumonia Risk

Researchers compiled data on adults who were recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease between 2005–2011
Researchers compiled data on adults who were recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease between 2005–2011

The use of benzodiazepines in patients with Alzheimer's disease was associated with a higher risk of pneumonia, a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) reported.

There is a lack of data regarding the use of benzodiazepines and similarly acting non-benzodiazepines and the risk of pneumonia among older adults. Study authors from the University of Eastern Finland aimed to assess this risk among older community-dwelling adults with Alzheimer's disease, "a condition in which both sedative/hypnotic use and pneumonia are common," explained Heidi Taipale, PhD, PharmD. 

Study authors compiled data on community-dwelling adults who were recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in Finland between 2005–2011 from the Medication use and Alzheimer disease (MEDALZ) cohort. Patients who used benzodiazepines and similar non-benzodiazepines were identified using a 1-year washout period and were matched with non-users. The likelihood of hospitalization or death due to pneumonia was evaluated and adjusted for use of other psychotropic drugs.  

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Of the total 49,484 patients with Alzheimer's disease, 5,232 benzodiazepine users and 3,269 non-benzodiazepine users were matched with non-users. The data indicated a increased risk of pneumonia (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] 1.22, 95% CI: 1.05–1.42) with use of both benzodiazepines and similar non-benzodiazepines. A separately analysis found that the use of benzodiazepines was significantly associated with an increased risk of pneumonia (aHR 1.28, 95% CI: 1.07–1.54) but not for the similarly acting non-benzodiazepines (aHR 1.10, 95% CI: 0.84–1.44). 

Specifically, the risk of pneumonia was highest within the first 30 days of benzodiazepine use (HR 2.09, 95% CI: 1.26–3.48). 

"Risk of pneumonia should be considered when weighing the benefits and risks of benzodiazepines in this population," concluded Dr. Taipale.

For more information visit cmaj.ca.