New Medications: How Safe Are They For Senior Citizens?

Apr 17th, 2010 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

An article by Dr Jan Garavaglia this past week caught our attention.  Dr G is chief medical examiner for  District Nine Medical Examiner’s Office in Orlando, Florida, and host of Discovery Health channel’s top-rated series Dr. G: Medical Examiner.  She writes 

Beware of New Drugs

Jan Garavaglia, MD
The FDA has taken about a ­dozen drugs off the market in just the last 10 years. Medications that appear to be safe during the approval process can later turn out to have dangerous effects.

Example: The antibiotic gatifloxacin (Tequin), originally approved for respiratory infections, was later found to cause dangerous changes in blood sugar levels, resulting in the deaths of some patients. The deaths were especially tragic because most ­patients would have done just as well with older — and safer — drugs.

Most new drugs are tested on only a few thousand patients at most. If a drug causes a deadly reaction in, say, one in 20,000 patients, it might be years before the dangers become apparent.

Avoid any drug until it has been on the market for at least two years. That’s long enough for serious dangers to surface. (Of course, some patients benefit greatly from new, breakthrough drugs, but for most conditions, older drugs with proven safety profiles are equally effective.)

The concern is a very real one.  The pharmaceutical industry is in business to make money, and they generate revenue with new, exciting, ‘breakthrough’ drugs, using the advertising industry to convince us (especially senior citizens) that their new product is nothing short of miraculous.

The difficulty here is trying to determine which drugs are ‘safe’ and which are not.  Thankfully, there is a resource now available to us to get as much information about new medications as is available:  the Internet. 

When your physician prescribes a new medication for you, the best alternative available is to research it as thoroughly as possible, ferreting out side effects and results of testing procedures before FDA approval.  Be sure to get the full generic name of the medication, as well as the ‘marketing name’; then do a search with that information in the search box of your favorite search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc).  If you are unable to understand the information you obtain, take it back to your physician and begin asking questions.  Or find a close friend or family member who is a member of the medical community and ask her/his help in deciphering the information.

Then decide whether or not you want to take the medication and inform your physician.  It could literally be a matter of life or death.



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