Evidence Summary

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Stopping psychotropic medications can reduce falls and improve cognition

van der Cammen TJ, Rajkumar C, Onder G, et al. Drug cessation in complex older adults: time for action. Age Ageing. 2014;43:20-5.

Review question

In older adults who have a history of falls, cognitive impairment or delirium, can stopping certain medications reduce these health problems?


Many older people have more than one health problem, and they may take several different medications at the same time. Some medications, or interactions between different medications, can cause falls or confusion. People who are prone to falls or confusion are more likely to be affected by medicines that can cause falls or confusion. In some cases, it might be better for a person to stop taking a medication to stop these side effects.

How the review was done

The researchers did a systematic review, searching for studies up to May 2013. The key features of the studies were:

  • people were 65 years of age or older and had experienced falls, cognitive impairment, or delirium; and
  • the studies looked at the effect of stopping use of certain medications.

What the researchers found

Stopping psychotropic medications reduced the rate of falls.

Regular medication reviews by family doctors reduced the risk of falls.

Stopping psychotropic medications improved cognition.

No studies looked at the effect of stopping drugs on delirium.


In older people who have a history of falls or cognitive impairment, stopping psychotropic medications and regular medication reviews by family doctors reduce these health problems.

Stopping medications to reduce falls, cognitive impairment or delirium


Effects of stopping medications


Stopping psychotropic medications reduced falls

Regular medication review by family doctors reduced falls

Cognitive impairment

Stopping psychotropic medications improved cognition


No studies were found.



Cognitive impairment
Trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions that affect everyday life.
Sudden and severe confusion that often is caused by physical or mental illness. It is usually temporary and reversible.
Psychotropic medication
Medications that affect mood, thinking, and behavior. They include sleeping pills, medications for anxiety, antidepressants and antipsychotics.
Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

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