Medication Misuse by the Elderly May Be Fatal

As a society, we are beginning to deal with a growing population of aging baby boomers, many of whom abuse substances and most of whom are taking new medications for diseases related to aging. Abuse or unintentional misuse is common with not only prescription medications, but also with many over-the-counter drugs.

According to a new study published in the November 5, 2014, online issue of Neurology, commonly prescribed, older drugs for arthritis and pain may increase the risk of death from stroke. The drugs called COX-2 inhibitors are selective nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The study also looked at non-selective NSAIDs, which include common pain relievers such as ibuprofen and naproxen.

Researchers looked at whether study participants were current, former or non-users of these drugs within two months of their stroke. Overall, people who were current users of COX-2 inhibitors were 19 percent more likely to die after stroke than people who did not take the drugs. New users of the older COX-2 drugs were 42 percent more likely to die from stroke than those who were not taking the drugs. Those taking etodolac were 53 percent more likely to die from stroke. Subsequently, the FDA removed etodolac from the market.

“While newer versions of these COX-2 inhibitors drugs have been pulled off shelves, older ones are still frequently prescribed,” said study author Morten Schmidt, MD, of Aarhus University Hospital in Aarhus, Denmark. “Our study provides further important evidence solidifying the risks of certain pain relievers and death from stroke.”

What makes these studies significant is the large number of elderly individuals that are users of pain medications and the group most likely to be at risk for stroke. People who suffer with pain do not always think clearly about the consequences of misusing medications. In addition, elderly people may be more forgetful and unintentionally misuse the drugs they take. Sadly, this happens all too often.

Talk to elderly friends and family about the medications they take and share this information about possible fatal risks associated with common over-the-counter drugs.

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