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Popular sedatives may raise risk for pneumonia, a study says

By Linda Searing,

Sedatives

Popular type of sedative may raise risk for contracting pneumonia

THE QUESTION

Some studies have shown that benzodiazepine sedatives — including such drugs as Valium, Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin and Restoril — may increase susceptibility to infection. Might this risk extend to pneumonia?

THIS STUDY analyzed data on 34,661 people of all ages, including 5,895 who took benzodiazepines and 4,964 who developed pneumonia. People who took benzodiazepines were 54 percent more likely to have later contracted pneumonia than those who did not take the sedating drugs. Chances of dying were also greater among those who took benzodiazepines: 22 percent higher within 30 days of contracting pneumonia and 32 percent higher within about three years.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? People who take benzodiazepines. Commonly prescribed for anxiety and insomnia, the drugs are also used to relieve muscle spasticity, prevent seizures, calm agitation, sedate patients before surgery and ease alcohol withdrawal.

CAVEATS The study showed a likely association between the drugs and pneumonia, but it was not designed to prove cause and effect. Study data included some information on frequency of use but not dosage.

FIND THIS STUDY Dec. 6 online issue of Thorax.

LEARN MORE ABOUT benzodiazepines at www.aafp.org/afp (search for “benzodiazepines”). Learn about pneumonia at www.lung.org.

— Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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