Benzodiazepines, Related Drugs May Raise Pneumonia Risk

January 17, 2019

Current or recent use of benzodiazepines or related drugs may increase the risk of pneumonia, according to a recent systematic review and meta-analysis published online in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Researchers analyzed data from 12 reports of 10 observational studies that involved more than 120,000 cases of pneumonia. After pooling estimates, they found use of benzodiazepines and related drugs was associated with a 1.25-fold greater risk of pneumonia, compared with no use.

Pneumonia risk increased with current and recent benzodiazepine use, researchers reported, but not with past use. Current use of short-acting benzodiazepines or related drugs was linked with the highest pneumonia risk.

Benzodiazepine Use and Misuse on the Rise

“Although benzodiazepine and benzodiazepine-related drug use is associated with a small increased risk of pneumonia, the population‐level impact of benzodiazepine-associated pneumonia is likely to be substantial given the large number of users,” researchers wrote.

“Clinicians should ensure that benzodiazepines and benzodiazepine-related drugs are prescribed only for patients with a clear indication and should be cautious when prescribing [them] to patients who have an underlying increased pneumonia risk.”

Study authors advised close monitoring of all patients prescribed the drugs, especially during the first 30 days of use, for signs and symptoms of pneumonia.

—Jolynn Tumolo


Sun GQ, Zhang L, Zhang LN, Wu Z, Hu DF. Benzodiazepines or related drugs and risk of pneumonia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2019 January 8;[Epub ahead of print].

Certain psychiatric drugs linked with elevated pneumonia risk [press release]. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley; January 9, 2019