Dangerous drugs that put seniors at risk

by | May 24, 2013 | Aging gracefully, Health Effects of the Environment and Medical System | 0 comments

Many thanks to Linda Grayling of the consumer watchdog website Drugwatch for this important guest article.

Dangerous Drugs that Put Seniors at Risk

More than 40 percent of people older than 65 take five or more medications, and some take dozens of pills every day.

That’s a lot of drugs, and it’s no surprise that this results in confusion for many seniors, who often run into serious problems when they take too much of a prescription or mix medicines that interact badly.

Even worse, some drugs are dangerous all by themselves. Seniors should be aware of drugs with serious side effects, especially drugs that are targeted at diseases more common in older populations.

Diabetes Medications

Diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, is a huge problem in the United States. It affects more than 23 million Americans, many of them seniors. Those affected often turn to medication to help them control their blood sugar levels and regulate the disease.

Unfortunately, some of these medications can have serious side effects. For example, Januvia and Byetta, two medicines used to increase insulin levels in the body, have been shown to increase the chance of contracting acute pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatitis is a serious inflammation of the pancreas that can cause tissue damage, infection and bleeding. Pancreatitis kills between 10 and 30 percent of those who have it. One study showed that patients on Byetta were 49 times more likely to develop pancreatitis, while another study linked Januvia to a six-fold increase in risk.

Studies have also shown serious problems with two other popular diabetes medications, Actos and Avandia.

Avandia, which is part of a class of drugs almost completely removed from market, has been the target of tens of thousands of lawsuits alleging that use of the drug resulted in life-threatening complications such as heart attacks and strokes.

Actos, another drug in the same problematic class as Avandia, has been linked to a significant increase in the risk of bladder cancer.

Stay Informed

While diabetes medications can have serious side effects, they are not the only drugs seniors should be wary of.

Drugs such as Pradaxa have been blamed for heart attack, uncontrollable bleeding, liver failure and even death.

Here are some tips to help seniors stay safe:

  • Take only what your doctor prescribes, and keep your doctors and pharmacist aware of every drug and supplement you are taking.
  • Follow all warning labels, and never adjust dosages yourself.
  • Watch out for recalls and warning notices from the FDA and manufacturers’ websites.
  • If you believe you have experienced complications as a result of one of your medications, contact a medical professional immediately. You may also want to consider your legal options.


Linda Grayling is a writer for Drugwatch.com, a consumer advocacy website. She stays up to speed on the latest medical news, including recalls and clinical trials.


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