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Published on 27 January 2010

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Painkiller ‘raises fracture risk’


Powerful prescription painkillers can increase the risk of older people breaking their bones, US research has shown.

Opioid painkillers can cause more people to fall due to their associated dizziness and sedation, which can lead to serious fractures among the elderly.

Moderately higher doses of the drug also increase the risk of fractures, according to a study which confirmed the link between opioids and the risk of breaks.

By studying more than 2,300 people over the age of 20, researchers found that those using opioids for a long time were more likely to suffer a fracture than non-users.

The annual fracture rate for patients who were not taking the medication was 4%, while current users had a 6% fracture rate, which rose to 10% if patients were taking daily doses of at least 50 mg.

Researchers wrote in the Journal of General Internal Medicine that 50 mg was considered to be a moderate dose of opioid medication.

Senior researcher Dr Michael Von Korff, from the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, said: “These drugs need to be taken cautiously and under close medical supervision.”

Copyright Press Association 2010
Journal of General Internal Medicine

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