Sleeping pills can increase the risk of pneumonia

Sleeping pills 
07 Dec 2012 15:58:45.723
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There has been a call for more research into the effects of a class of commonly used sleeping pills after researchers at The University of Nottingham found that patients taking benzodiazepines were at an increased risk of contracting and dying from pneumonia.

The research, led by Eneanya Obiora - an MSc Epidemiology student in the School of Community Health Sciences under the supervision of Richard Hubbard, a professor of respiratory epidemiology and Dr Puja Myles, an expert in infectious disease epidemiology - has been published in the journal Thorax, an international journal of respiratory medicine.

Professor Hubbard said: “These drugs are commonly prescribed medications that have significant immune effects. Deep sleep induced by these drugs may mean that secretions can build up in the lungs. Our results suggest that they may increase both the risk of and mortality from pneumonia.” 

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Benzodiazepines are a class of commonly prescribed sleeping pills used as sedatives for anxiety, epilepsy, muscle spasm, alcohol withdrawal, palliative care, insomnia and to provide sedation. Their use is prevalent in elderly patients. However, the drugs have been associated with an increased incidence of infections and death from sepsis in the critically ill.

The research team in the Division of Epidemiology and Public Health looked at just under 5,000 patients of all ages who had been diagnosed with pneumonia. They compared each of them with six similar people, matched by age and sex and drawn from the same GP practice that had not contracted the condition.

The study found that taking benzodiazepine was associated with a 54% increased risk of pneumonia and those who did contract it were a fifth more likely to die within a month and a third more like to die within three years.

Current users of the drugs were 90% more likely to contract pneumonia whereas past users were 40% more likely to contract the lung condition.

Dr Myles said: “Our results are consistent with data from previous clinical trials which have raised concerns over the effects of these drugs in critically ill patients admitted to intensive care units. These concerns have led to a move away from the use of benzodiazepine sedation. Our findings indicate a significant risk of benzodiazepine exposure on infectious lung disease and given the widespread use of benzodiazepine drugs, further studies are required to evaluate their safety in the context of infection.”

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has 40,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘the world’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking 2011.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2011, for its research into global food security.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fund-raising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Puja Myles, at The University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 8231813, or Lindsay Brooke, Media Relations Manager at The University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 9515751.Credits
Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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