Call for pneumonia to be added to benzo risks

Pneumonia should be added to the list of potential harms associated with use of benzodiazepines in people with dementia, according to geriatricians.

A Finnish study of almost 50,000 elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease has found that those taking the drugs have a 30% increased risk of pneumonia.

The authors say one possible explanation for this finding may be related to the more pronounced sedative effects of these drugs in this population.

Sedation may increase risk of aspiration, which may lead to pneumonia, say the researchers, and the risk is highest at the start of treatment (during the first 30 days).

However, they say the association with non-benzodiazepines (or Z-drugs, as they are commonly known), did not reach significance, although they do not conclude these drugs were safer.

The results are consistent with studies that have previously found an increased risk of pneumonia