Benzodiazepines were associated with an increased risk of, and mortality from, community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) in a large case-control study.
Previous research has linked this class of drugs with an increased incidence of infections, and mortality from sepsis, in the critically ill. In the current study, data from 29,697 controls and 4,694 CAP cases showed that people using benzodiazepines were 54% more likely than nonusers to contract pneumonia.
Individually, diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and temazepam (Restoril), but not chlordiazepoxide, were associated with an increased incidence of CAP.
People taking benzodiazepenes also were 22% more likely to die within 30 days of being diagnosed with CAP and 32% more likely to die within three years of diagnosis than were nonusers.
Cases were more likely than controls to have had previous pneumonia; heart attack, depression, psychotic illness, or other serious illness; or underlying illnesses, and were more likely to be current smokers.
Eneanya Obiora and fellow investigators cautioned in their report for the journal Thorax that their findings do not definitively prove cause and effect. However, the results suggest a need for further research into the immune safety profile of benzodiazepines.