European Respiratory Society

Benzodiazepine drug use and adverse respiratory outcomes among older adults with COPD

Nicholas T. Vozoris, Hadas D. Fischer, Xuesong Wang, Anne L. Stephenson, Andrea S. Gershon, Andrea Gruneir, Peter C. Austin, Geoffrey M. Anderson, Chaim M. Bell, Sudeep S. Gill, Paula A. Rochon


Our purpose was to evaluate the association of new benzodiazepine use relative to non-use with adverse clinical respiratory outcomes among older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

This was a retrospective population-based cohort study of Ontario, Canada, residents between 2003 and 2010. A validated algorithm was applied to health administrative data to identify adults aged 66 years and older with COPD. Relative risks (RRs) of several clinically important respiratory outcomes were examined within 30 days of incident benzodiazepine use compared with non-use, applying propensity score matching.

New benzodiazepine users were at significantly higher risk for outpatient respiratory exacerbations (RR 1.45, 95% CI 1.36–1.54) and emergency room visits for COPD or pneumonia (RR 1.92, 95% CI 1.69–2.18) compared to non-users. Risk of hospitalisation for COPD or pneumonia was also increased in benzodiazepine users, but was nonsignificant (RR 1.09, 95% CI 1.00–1.20). There were no significant differences in intensive care unit admissions between the two groups and all-cause mortality was slightly lower among new versus non-users.

Benzodiazepines were associated with increased risk for several serious adverse respiratory outcomes among older adults with COPD. The findings suggest that decisions to use benzodiazepines in older patients with COPD need to consider potential adverse respiratory outcomes.


Benzodiazepines are associated with increased risk of adverse respiratory outcomes among older adults with COPD


  • Received January 9, 2014.
  • Accepted February 28, 2014.
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