WEDNESDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- People taking the widely prescribed sedatives known as benzodiazepines may be putting themselves at greater risk for developing pneumonia, British researchers report.
Moreover, they may also face an increased risk of dying from the disease, the investigators added. Benzodiazepines such as Halcyon, Librium, Valium and Xanax are commonly prescribed for anxiety, epilepsy, muscle spasm and insomnia.
"Our study calls into question the safety of benzodiazepine drugs in the context of infection," said study author Dr. Robert Sanders, a senior clinical research associate at the Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London.
"While further study is required, this initial analysis suggests that benzodiazepine exposure may increase the risk of developing pneumonia or dying from pneumonia," he said.
Sanders hopes this study prompts more research, including randomized, controlled trials and cohort studies. A randomized, controlled study is one in which people are randomly assigned to different groups: one group receives the treatment and the other does not receive the treatment (the "control" group).
The report was published online Dec. 5 in the journal Thorax.
For the study, Sanders' team analyzed the medical records of patients whose data was included in the Health Improvement Network database.
Specifically, they looked at almost 5,000 patients diagnosed with pneumonia between 2001 and 2002. The researchers compared those patients with more than 29,500 patients who didn't have pneumonia.
Patients with pneumonia typically had suffered pneumonia before, along with other serious illnesses such as heart attack, depression and psychosis. In addition, they were also more likely to smoke, the study authors noted.
Sanders' team compared the use
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