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Fall risk tied to sleep aid could bring medical malpractice suits

New information about sleeping pills administered in hospitals could lead to an increase in lawsuits for medical malpractice and related slip-and-fall accidents. A study recently published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine shows that fall rates among patients who take the sleeping pill zolpidem are more than four times as high than those who do not take that drug.

Many people who are prescribed the drug are older patients, according to the report, and age can increase fall risk. Still, the administration of the drug increased fall risk more than any single factor such as age, cognitive impairment, insomnia or delirium.

Physicians say despite the risks, patients still need to consume sleeping drugs. Patients who do not sleep during their hospital stays face increased risk for other ailments, according to experts in the sleep disorder and pulmonology fields. This topic has thus become a focus for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to experts, which will allow government officials to research the potential effects of drug administration in hospitals throughout the nation.

Other key findings show that about 40 percent of eligible admissions patients received prescriptions for zolpidem during their stay at the hospital. About 3 percent of patients on the drug experienced falls while in the medical facilities.

People who have fallen because of zolpidem could recover damages from the hospital where they suffered injuries. Patients who endure falls suffer from high risk of infection, concussion and other severe injuries that could incur additional medical costs. Compensatory damages from a related lawsuit could provide significant funding for additional medical services. This is especially true for patients who have suffered head trauma because of their falls, as head injuries can cause long-lasting health effects that require care far into the future.

Source: EurekAlert, "Inpatient sleeping drug quadrupled fall risk," Nov. 19, 2012

• Our firm handles medical malpractice as well as many other types of personal injury cases. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Newark, New Jersey, medical malpractice page.

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