Monday, November 12, 2012

Prescription Drugs leading cause of Accidental Death



Today I read an article http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/17/local/la-me-drugs-epidemic-20110918 stating that prescription drugs are the leading cause of accidental death. Wow!

It states:
"Drugs exceeded motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death in 2009, killing at least 37,485 people nationwide, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "

That's a powerful statement, but I can see how that may happen. Although the article focuses on drug overdose (particularly pain and anxiety drugs), and therefore putting the blame on the patient or user, there are other complications as well, like side effects and drug interactions that can also be blamed.

I used to work as a data manager at the Cleveland Clinic in the Cancer Center, pouring over charts of cancer patients, and later at the Children's Hospital in Cincinnati, and one of my tasks was to look at the side effects of the chemo drugs used in treating the patients, who were in clinical trials or just being treated for cancer, and report them. This was a very revealing time for me, for I was able to see how drugs can really affect the body in a negative way. So it was a fine line of balancing the benefits of the drug as well as the side effects. Of course, we want the benefits to out perform the side effects.

Over time, I used my work experience to help elderly family members who were prescribed medicines that for one reason or the other, always seemed to cause them problems. One relative, who had heart problems, was taking many, many pills, and was on oxygen, and could not walk without a cane. At first, I thought it was because of the heart problem, but as I investigated the causes, and checked up on the side effects of the drugs, I found out that all the drugs he was taking was mostly to counter the side effect of some other drug. This "Soup of Drugs" had incapacitated him to the point that he could not function normally. Given that, we took him to another doctor, who prescribed another drug, which worked better for him. We also slowly weaned him off the "anxiety" drug that he needed to take because one of his heart medicines was giving him anxiety. Eventually, he stopped using the oxygen, but the sad part is, he moved, and then was given a whole set of new medicines, and within a few weeks had expired. I have many, many stories to tell regarding the side effects of drugs.

I am seeing the same pattern with another elderly relative, who has now started on the same path for her heart, first she was given one drug, and then another, and then another. I will not name drugs because each one has its own side effects, and sometimes they have similar side effects. I do know that at one time she had diabetes because of a drug's side effect and when she switched doctors and changed her medicine, her diabetes stopped. Now it's a battle with the doctors over her cholesterol. The statins incapacitate her. She cannot walk when she takes them. She is now taking the smallest dose. Statins affect muscles, and they also remove COQ10 from muscle. Heart is not the only muscle in the body. I told her cardiologist recently, that what good do statins do if the patient cannot walk due to their side effects? Walking is one of the most important activities a heart patient can do, it cleans the arteries, for one. So how can statins be beneficial?

Going back to that article, which focuses on people misusing and overdosing on drugs, why even have them taking those types of drugs in the first place?

Drugs are poisons, and they need to be treated as such.


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