Tom Ballard, ND's blog

Drug Side Effects in the Elderly
January 6, 2011, 10:09 am
Filed under: Commentary, Medications | Tags: , , ,

The elderly aren’t the only ones being prescribed pharmaceuticals, but they’re more likely to be taking several. Along with children, the elderly are most likely to have adverse reactions to medicines. This is mostly due to their lessened ability to detoxify and remove chemicals from the body.

From: (Public Citizen)

Each year, more than 9.6 million adverse drug reactions occur in older Americans. The referenced study found that 37% of these adverse reactions were not reported to the doctor, presumably because patients did not realize the reactions were due to the drug. This is not too surprising considering that most doctors admitted they did not explain possible adverse effects to their patients.

The following national estimates are based on well-conducted studies, mainly in the United States:

  • Each year, in hospitals alone, there are 28,000 cases of life-threatening heart toxicity from adverse reactions to digoxin, the most commonly used form of digitalis in older adults. It is estimated that as many as 40% or more of these people are using this drug unnecessarily, even by pro-pharmaceutical researchers. Therefore, many of these injuries are preventable.
  • Each year 41,000 older adults are hospitalized—and 3,300 of these die from ulcers caused by NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, usually for treatment of arthritis). Thousands of younger adults are hospitalized due to these drugs.
  • At least 16,000 injuries from auto crashes each year involving older drivers are attributable to the use of psychoactive drugs, specifically benzodiazepines and tricyclic antidepressants. Psychoactive drugs are those that affect the mind or behavior.
  • Each year 32,000 older adults suffer from hip fractures—contributing to more than 1,500 deaths—attributable to drug-induced falls. In one study, the main categories of drugs responsible for the falls leading to hip fractures were sleeping pills and minor tranquilizers (30%), antipsychotic drugs (52%), and antidepressants (17%). All of these categories of drugs are often prescribed unnecessarily, especially in older adults, according to medical experts that are not anti-drugs. The in-hospital death rate for hip fractures in older adults is 4.9%. Multiplying this times the 32,000 hip fractures a year in older adults attributable to drug-induced falls, 1,568 older adults die each year from adverse drug reactions that cause hip fractures. Continue reading

Statins Harm More than Help
November 18, 2010, 11:50 am
Filed under: Medications, Research | Tags: , , ,

It may seem like I’m picking on statin (cholesterol) drugs, but they’re such an easy target for scorn.  They’re such a good example of how bad science and greed walk hand in hand in our current medical system.

Example 1:

You may have read reports of the push to prescribe statins to younger, healthy people. The rationale for this is that the sooner you stop heart disease the better. The research support for this was the JUPITER study, funded by a drug company, which claimed a 44% reduced risk of a cardiovascular event for those using a statin.

One obvious problem with the study is that it was conducted on sick people, not healthy ones. There has been no study on the consequences of giving statins over prolonged periods to healthy people.

In other words, the “scientific” medical community’s attitude is: Hey, don’t let the lack of scientific evidence stop the prescriptions. Let’s proceed on assumptions.

Example 2:

You’d think from the advertising and 20 million prescriptions that statins are miracle drugs. The scientific truth is something completely different. The British Medical Journal in 2010 published yet another study showing how poorly these drugs perform. They found, in following over 225,000 people, that only 2.7% benefited (271 out of 10,000). Not what you call cost-effective.

Even more damning in the BMJ study was the number of people suffering side effects, including liver damage, kidney failure, cataracts, and extreme muscle fatigue. This group made up 4.4% of participants. In other words, almost twice as many people did worse on statins than did better.

Mathematics is a science: 4.4% of 20 million is 880,000 people suffering, even dying in the hopes that 2.7%, 540,000, will have less heart disease. Clearly doctors who prescribe statins are not doing their math.

Drug Problems Go Beyond Pain Pills
November 27, 2008, 11:56 am
Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , ,

By Tom Ballard, RN, ND

The Seattle PI published a nice article on pain pills (Prescription Pill Deaths Soar, PI 11-14-08). However, prescription drugs problems go far beyond pain medications.

The Journal of the American Medical Association and other leading publications report at least 120,000 deaths per year from ‘appropriately prescribed’ medications. It makes since: Prescription drugs are largely used to treat symptoms not diseases. For instance: High blood pressure may be caused by a magnesium deficiency. Blood pressure pills lower your blood pressure, but ignore the magnesium deficiency that places you at risk of stroke and heart attack.

Rising death rates from prescription drugs are a major health problem, killing three times as many as breast cancer, yet the public is largely unaware of this health crisis.