For those suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), breathing problems are already an unpleasant fact of life. This progressive disease is caused by exposure to lung irritants, such as first- or secondhand cigarette smoke, which is the leading cause of COPD. Long-term exposure to air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust also may contribute to COPD.
A new study now shows that older patients suffering from the disease, and taking specific meditations may be at additional risk. Data collected during a Canadian research project indicates that certain benzodiazepines prescribed for insomnia or anxiety may cause increased breathing problems for those in this demographic. Specifically studied were benzodiazepines such as lorazepam (Ativan) or alprazolam (Xanax) are commonly prescribed to treat insomnia and anxiety, the study author noted.
To determine this connection, researcher Dr. Nicholas Vozoris examined medical records of older adults with COPD. When gathered, the data showed that, among those who had been recently prescribed a benzodiazepine, 45 percent were documented to have an increased risk of experiencing breathing problems requiring outpatient treatment. This same group had a 92 percent greater risk of requiring hospitalization, or an emergency room visit for treatment of COPD, and other lung-related ailments.
While the information presented in the study determined an association between certain prescription drugs and increased risk of breathing problems in older COPD patients, the study’s findings were not conclusive. “Physicians, when prescribing these pills, need to be careful, use caution and monitor the patients for respiratory side effects,” Vozoris said in a hospital news release. “Patients also need to watch for respiratory-related symptoms.”
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