Seniors Making Informed Medication Choices

Seniors were more likely to quit benzodiazepine usage after receiving information on risks

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Certain sleeping pills and anxiety medication could be risky for seniors. Evidence-based education could help them to choose their medications wisely.

A recent study examined the effectiveness of an education program in helping older adults to cease benzodiazepine therapy.

Benzodiazepines are medications used to treat anxiety and insomnia.

The researchers found that patients who received information on the risks of benzodiazepine medications and alternative therapies were significantly more likely to decrease their dosage or quit altogether.

The authors of this study suggested that providing educational materials could spark important discussions between older patients and their pharmacists or health care providers.

"Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of your medication."

Cara Tannenbaum, MD, MSc, Pharmacy Research Chair and professor at the University of Montreal, led this study.

The American Board of Internal Medicine Choosing Wisely campaign has recommended that older adults not take benzodiazepines as sleep aids, as the medications are tied to memory loss, falls and car accidents in seniors.

Dr. Tannenbaum's study examined the effectiveness of educational intervention for discontinuing benzodiazepine therapy.

A total of 261 participants, age 65 or older, completed the trial.

Each of the participants was receiving long-term benzodiazepine therapy at the beginning of the study.

About half of the participants were assigned to the intervention arm of the trial. These patients received patient empowerment education, including an eight-page booklet, an assessment on the risks of using benzodiazepines and suggestions for therapeutic substitutes for treating insomnia and anxiety.

The rest of the participants received usual care.

The researchers followed up with the participants six months later.

These researchers found that 62 percent of the patients in the intervention group had talked with their doctor or pharmacist about ceasing usage of benzodiazepines.

A total of 27 percent of the intervention group had stopped using benzodiazepines, compared with 5 percent of the comparison group.

No major adverse effects were reported.

Among the 52 participants who decided not to lessen their medication, most cited discouragement from their doctor and fear of withdrawal symptoms.

The researchers concluded that direct-to-consumer education may be an effective tool for addressing overuse of certain medications in older adults.

They suggested that supplying older patients with evidence and information on different therapies can help them choose treatment wisely.

This study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine on April 14.

Two of the researchers disclosed financial ties to research organizations. The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Review Date: 
April 14, 2014
Last Updated:
April 14, 2014