Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 141–146

The Association Between the Number of Prescription Medications and Incident Falls in a Multi-ethnic Population of Adult Type-2 Diabetes Patients: The Diabetes and Aging Study

  • Elbert S. Huang
  • Andrew J. Karter
  • Kirstie K. Danielson
  • E. Margaret Warton
  • Ameena T. Ahmed
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11606-009-1179-2

Cite this article as:
Huang, E.S., Karter, A.J., Danielson, K.K. et al. J GEN INTERN MED (2010) 25: 141. doi:10.1007/s11606-009-1179-2



Use of four or more prescription medications is considered a risk factor for falls in older people. It is unclear whether this polypharmacy-fall relationship differs for adults with diabetes.


We evaluated the association between number of prescription medications and incident falls in a multi-ethnic population of type-2 diabetes patients in order to establish an evidence-based medication threshold for fall risk in diabetes.


Baseline survey (1994-1997) with 5 years of longitudinal follow-up.


Eligible subjects (N = 46,946) had type-2 diabetes, were ≥18 years old, and enrolled in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Diabetes Registry.

Measurements and main results

We identified clinically recognized incident falls based on diagnostic codes (ICD-9 codes: E880-E888). Relative to regimens of 0-1 medications, regimens including 4 or more prescription medications were significantly associated with an increased risk of falls [4-5 medications adjusted HR 1.22 (1.04, 1.43), 6-7 medications 1.33 (1.12, 1.58), >7 medications 1.59 (1.34, 1.89)]. None of the individual glucose-lowering medications was found to be significantly associated with a higher risk of falls in predictive models.


The prescription of four or more medications was associated with an increased risk of falls among adult diabetes patients, while no specific glucose-lowering agent was linked to increased risk. Baseline risk of falls and number of baseline medications are additional factors to consider when deciding whether to intensify diabetes treatments.



Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elbert S. Huang
    • 1
    • 4
  • Andrew J. Karter
    • 2
  • Kirstie K. Danielson
    • 3
  • E. Margaret Warton
    • 2
  • Ameena T. Ahmed
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of MedicineUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Kaiser Permanente Division of ResearchOaklandUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Endocrine Discovery and Clinical CareUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  4. 4.ChicagoUSA