Using multiple medications may increase risk of falling for people with MS

More than 50% of people with MS experience falls. Falls can cause injuries that can require medical attention and also significantly impact on quality of life and independence for people with MS.

Many of the symptoms of MS can contribute to the risk of falling, including poor coordination, sensory changes, reduced muscle strength and changes to thinking processes.

MS Research Australia-funded researchers Dr Phu Hoang and Professor Stephen Lord, have been investigating the factors that put people with MS at greater risk of falling, with the aim of developing targeted interventions to reduce the risk of falling.

Together with their US colleagues at the Oregon Health and Science University, the NeuRA team has published some of the findings from their study, showing that the more non-MS prescription medications a person is using, the greater the risk of falling.

While the team showed that immune-modifying treatments for MS do reduce the risk of falling, the use of multiple other medications, particularly those that act on the brain and nervous system such as anti-depressants, can increase the risk of falls.Dietary supplements were not associated with any change in falls risk.

This is the first time that this association has been investigated in detail in people with MS.
The research, now published in the International Journal of MS Care shows that as with the aged population, the risk of falling in people with MS increases significantly with each additional medication used.

The researchers suggest that health care professionals should be vigilant in discussing the need for each medication with people with MS, to ensure the right balance is reached between managing the complex range of symptoms experienced by people with MS as well as reducing the risk of falls.

Professor Lord and Dr Hoang’s work has led to many insights into falls risk in people with MS and has also led to the development of a falls prevention strategy which is now being tested in a clinical trial.