Adverse drug reactions are a leading cause of death
By Stephen Roberts
[FONT=arial,helvetica,sans-serif]Adverse reactions to prescription drugs are a leading cause of death in the United States. Some studies estimate as many as 100,000 people die due to prescription drug problems each year. Approximately 1.5 million Americans are hospitalized annually due to these reactions and another estimated 700,000 have drug problems during hospitalization.
Older people are more susceptible to adverse drug reactions. People in their 50s are a third more likely to have a negative drug reaction than those in their 40s. More than 3,000 older adults die from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) that are used for arthritis each year. Approximately 16,000 injuries occur to older drivers because of the use of tranquilizers and antidepressants. Sleeping pills and tranquilizers contribute to serious falls for older Americans. These falls result in approximately 32,000 hip fractures and 1,500 deaths. Many older people also suffer from memory loss, dementia, addiction, involuntary movements and Parkinsonism due to prescription drugs.
One reason for the increased sensitivity to drugs in older individuals is that aging livers and kidneys cannot process and clear drugs out of the body as well as they used to. Diseases can also have a negative impact on the way our bodies process drugs. The older we get, the more disease conditions we are likely to have. Older individuals also use more drugs than younger persons, leading to the inevitability of an increase in the risk of harmful drug interactions
People in their 50s and older are also not as able to compensate for some drug effects. One instance of this occurs when people get out of bed or rise from a seated position. As people rise, blood pressure falls, which decreases blood flow to the brain. Younger people can adjust to this but older individuals, especially if they are on drugs that lower blood pressure, often cannot. This may result in feeling dizzy or faint with resultant falls and potential injury. Many heat deaths that occur when temperatures become extreme result because some drugs take away an older person's ability to control internal body temperature.
To protect yourself from negative drug reactions, there are several steps you can take, according to the Public Citizen's Health Research Group. First, make sure your doctor knows all the drugs you are taking. In discussions with your physician, find out if the drugs you are presently using are still needed. In many cases, it is possible to substitute exercise and weight loss for drugs that lower mild cases of high blood pressure. Or perhaps you have been using a sleeping pill that you no longer need.
When first starting a new drug, start with lower doses, if possible, to see if it works for you. Older people generally do not need as high a dose of a drug as younger people to have the same effect. If after starting a drug you begin to feel differently, consider that you may be having a negative reaction. Also when getting a new prescription, take the time to make sure that you know the directions for using the drug and why you are taking it.