The findings indicated that benzodiazepines were associated with a 54 percent increased risk of developing pneumonia. This was also true for zopiclone, the researchers added.
Specifically, diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan) and temazepam (Restoril) were associated with an increased risk of pneumonia, according to the report.
The risk was not associated with the benzodiazepine chlordiazepoxide (Librium), the authors noted.
Further analysis found that the risk of dying within a month after being diagnosed with pneumonia was 22 percent higher among people taking benzodiazepines. The risk of dying was 32 percent higher within three years after diagnosis, the researchers found.
These risks of dying were linked to diazepam, chlordiazepoxide, lorazepam and temazepam, they noted.
About 2 percent of people in the United Kingdom and the United States have used benzodiazepines for a year or more; among the elderly, however, one in 10 use these drugs, the study authors pointed out.
Benzodiazepines have also been linked to an increased risk of infections and death from blood poisoning in critically ill patients, according to background information in the study.
Although these results do not prove a cause-and-effect link between these drugs and an increased risk of pneumonia or death from pneumonia, they should be studied further, the researchers said.
One expert offered a possible explanation for how these drugs may raise the risk of pneumonia.
"I am not surprised by the finding at all," said Dr. Len Horovitz, an internist and pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "Benzodiazepines are sedative/hypnotics."
People take them as tranquilizers during the day or to sleep at night, Horovitz said. "They are often taken with alcohol, even though patients know not t
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