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Common Medications Poison The Elderly

The FDA released a surprising report on November 29, 2007 saying that they FDA cannot protect the American public from toxic drug reactions. The 56-page report by its Subcommittee on Science and Technology stated the FDA "suffers from serious scientific deficiencies and is not positioned to meet current or emerging regulatory responsibilities." This blistering report on the life-threatening shortcomings of the FDA was released with the stamp of approval of the head of the FDA, Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach.

This should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to the actions of the FDA. But it is surprising to hear the FDA admit it. If you read the entire report, you will see the purpose of the report is not to reform the FDA. That would be too much to hope for. This report is a part of a PR campaign to get Congress to give the FDA millions of more dollars for genetic research to see who has the correct genes to be able to take what drugs.

Prescription drug toxicity is a real problem in this country. Over 100,000 US citizens die each year from drug reactions. Another 3 million are hospitalized from drug reactions. Half of those people are conveniently already in the hospital. (In fact if you add the number of deaths from drug reactions to the deaths in hospitals, the total is the third leading cause of death in the US.) The FDA has not responded to this threat to our health.

The purpose of this article is not to discuss the cozy relationship the FDA has with the companies they are suppose to be regulating. Or to question why the FDA is not doing its supposed job of policing the health of our citizens. Rather I am going to give another opinion on how prescription drugs are stealing years from our elderly.

The average 65 year old person in the US takes 15 different drugs. Two drugs to "combat" the symptoms of some condition, 13 are prescribed to counteract the symptoms of the two. The toxicity of these drugs is a real problem especially for people in the later years of their lives.

I could review lots of drugs that are short and/or long term health threats. Statin drugs, for example, are a 20 billion dollar a year industry by themselves. Given to lower cholesterol, the long term effects of taking statin drugs are potentially worse then the condition they are suppose to offset. Studies show statin drugs affect the human bodies ability to use CoQ 10, a vital substance needed by the cells of your body, especially the heart muscle. Use could result in heart disease. More than half the people that die from  heart attacks have normal cholesterol. But that is another story.

The Annuals of Internal Medicine reports that three drugs are responsible for a third (58,000) of all emergency room visits for drug interactions for people over age 65. Those three drugs are Coumadin (17.3%), insulin (13.0%) and the heart drug digoxin (3.2%). Coumadin is a great example of this medical science.

COUMADIN

Coumadin is prescribed to prevent a stroke. It is commonly given to people who have "atrial fibrillation". It is suppose to "thin" your blood so that it won't create clots causing a blockage and thus a stroke. What the heck is Coumadin? Well, it is Warfarin Sodium. So what is that? The best place to find out is at your local Home Depot or hardware store. Ask the clerk where the rat poison is. Warfarin has been long used for rodent extermination. It causes the creature that consumes it to bleed to death internally. It is very effective.

What Warfarin does is poison the Vitamin K receptors on platelets so the cannot stick together and clot. It also poisons all Vitamin functions throughout the body. Strange, if you consider Vitamin K is needed by the body for health. It is a potent antioxidant and works throughout the body to assist with vital functions. Vitamin K is necessary for your body to use calcium to form new bone materials, Warfarin also blocks that. So if you are taking Warfarin you increase your risk for osteoporosis. In fact anyone using Warfarin for longer than one year has a 25% increase in the risk of bone fractures. Did your doctor tell you that when he prescribed Coumadin?

I mentioned that Warfarin inhibits your body's ability to use calcium to make new bone. This side effect results in calcium accumulating in your arteries. In the medical world this is called hardening of the arteries or arterioscelrosis. Strange that Coumadin is given to prevent strokes yet a side effect is to accelerate poor cardiovascular health. I wonder if your doctor explained that to you?

The line between too much and just right with this drug is very fine. A rupture of a blood vessel in your body could result in you bleeding to death since the ability of your blood to clot has been severely curtailed. In fact Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel, ruptured a vessel in his brain and had a hemorrhage related stroke. This type of stroke has increased by 400% in the last ten years with the rise in Coumadin use. If you are older than 80, your chances of this kind of stroke increase to 45%. (This is a tenfold increase over the last over the last ten years. The rate increased in this age group from 2.5 in 1988 to 45.9 in 1999 according to a  University of Cincinnati study.) The drug is commonly prescribed to prevent blood clotting, which can lead to ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke. However, Warfarin is associated with another type of stroke, called an intracerebral brain hemorrhage, which is a ruptured blood vessel resulting in bleeding in the brain reported the study's lead author, Dr. Matthew L. Flaherty, a neurologist.2 God forbid  you have an accident at home or in a car and start bleeding externally or worse internally. But at least you didn't die from a blood clot induced stroke.

"This study demonstrates that we need to be careful when we use these therapies," said Dr. Michael B. Rothberg, an associate professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. "Not all patients with atrial fibrillation should be getting Warfarin," he said. "Patients at the highest risk for stroke will benefit the most, and patients at the highest risk for bleeding will benefit the least," he said. Rothberg noted that although Warfarin is standard treatment for atrial fibrillation, not everyone with atrial fibrillation is at the same risk of stroke. "I don't think that most doctors prescribing Warfarin are assessing their patient's risk of stroke and risk of bleeding, but they should be," he said. In addition, Rothberg also believes that better INR monitoring could help reduce the problem of bleeding. "In Europe, they are doing home monitoring," he said. "Like patients who monitor their own blood sugar, there are patients who monitor their own INR."2

You might be saying to yourself about this time, this doesn't make sense. Why would my doctor prescribe rat poison to me to lower my odds of having a stroke induced by a blood clot when the use of it can cause even worse health issues. Actually the question is worse than that. First, you may never have such a stroke whether you take Coumadin or not. But by taking Coumadin you are changing  how your body works that in itself very well could result in brittle bones or hardening of your arteries or bleeding to death.

This logic (or lack of) is very prevalent in the medical business. Drugs treat symptoms. It is safe to say very few if any drugs actually treat causes of illness. They treat symptoms. Treating a symptom is like covering up the flashing red light on the dash board of your car with a piece of tape. Does eliminating your ability to see the light fix the problem? Does your body cause clots because it has a deficiency of Warfarin?

So why would a doctor prescribe rat poison to anyone to hopefully prevent something that may never happen? Well, it is the accepted method to treat sticky platelets. If you don't want a blood clot in the brain, prevent your blood from clotting, period. And besides it guarantees you will return on a regular and often basis to his office to get your platelets tested.

Is there anything else more safe that could help? Most elderly (and younger) Americans have nutritional deficiencies. Omega 3 (fish oil) and magnesium are both known to help atrial fibrillation, stroke risk and they help bones form and have no adverse side effects.

Older people in the Mediterranean area live longer and have a higher quality of life in their elder years. Strange, since those folks are poorer and have less access to top quality medical care than their counterparts in America. They do not take drug therapies but they do have access to better quality food that is fresh, organic and not processed.

Be informed. If you are prescribed any drug, learn about it. Ask questions. Why do I need to take this drug? What could happen if I don't take it? What are the possible side effects? Are they worse than the reason you are suppose to take it in the first place? Don't assume your doctor knows more than you do about it either. Ask your pharmacist as well. Also make sure that at least one person, either your pharmacist or your doctor, knows ALL the drugs you are taking because they can interact. And lastly eat good food. Eat organic foods. Avoid genetically modified products. Take quality supplements. Try not to eat chemicals you can't pronounce. Limit your intake of processed foods. Drink plenty of water. Avoid Aspartame at all costs. And if you do take a prescription do so from an informed perspective.
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Coumadin Basics: Coumadin (generic name - Warfarin) is in a class of drugs known as anticoagulants. It interferes with blood clotting by depressing the production in the liver of blood coagulation factors that are Vitamin-K dependent.

What is Coumadin Used For?:
It is most often used in the treatment of pulmonary emboli, deep-vein thrombosis, atrial heart arrhythmia, heart attack and post operatively in cardiac valve replacement.

Cautions of Coumadin (Warfarin):
bulletuncontrolled bleeding; hazardous activities that could result in injury should be avoided. The most serious side effect of Coumadin is hemorrhage. Even a simple bump that does not break the skin can result in serious bleeding
bulletlet your dentist know you are taking Coumadin before dental work is done
bulletobserve for any signs of bleeding, including black tarry, stools, bleeding gums, blood in urine
bullet
hepatitis
bulletintestinal bleeding
bulletnausea, vomiting, diarrhea
bulletrash
bulletCraving cheese and fearing mouse traps

SIDE EFFECTS: The two most serious side effects are bleeding and necrosis (gangrene) of the skin. Bleeding can occur in any organ or tissue. Bleeding around the brain can cause severe headache and paralysis. Bleeding in the joints can cause joint pain and swelling. Bleeding in the stomach or intestines can cause weakness, fainting spells, black tarry stools, vomiting of blood, or coffee ground material. Bleeding in the kidneys can cause back pain and blood in urine. Other side effects include purple, painful toes, rash, hair loss, bloating, diarrhea, and jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin). Signs of overdose include bleeding gums, bruising, nosebleeds, heavy menstrual bleeding, and prolonged bleeding from cuts - Medicine Net.com

Want to read the actual warning and prescription information included with Coumadin, click here

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SideNote:

Beware of drug company studies on the safety and effectiveness of any drug. A drug is a drug because it causes changes inside your body. If it did not cause changes it wouldn't be called a drug. All drugs have side effects. The FDA accepts the information the drug companies supply to prove the value of their drugs, regardless. These companies do not report negative results of a drug study. Why would they want to do that? Instead, your doctor and his peers are suppose to report those results. Wait a minute, does that mean we are all part of a huge series of drug experiments? The drugs are prescribed to the public and when enough people die from a drug then it is removed from the safe list? Vioxx is a good example of this experiment in progress. This is not to say there aren't some "good" drugs, it is more to say be a knowledgeable consumer, your life may depend on it.
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Sources:

1 FDA Sleeps While Common Medications Poison The Elderly -  Byron J. Richards, Founder/Director of Wellness Resources (www.wellnessresources.com), is a Board-Certified Clinical Nutritionist, a charter professional member of the International and American Associations of Clinical Nutritionists (IAACN) since 1991. He is a nationally-renowned health expert, radio personality, and educator.
2 Brain Bleeds From Blood Thinner on the Rise By Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter, www.healthfinder.gov
3 The use of Warfarin with natural supplements Ray Sahelian, M.D.

4 OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH GUIDELINE FOR WARFARIN - OSHA USA Department of Labor HEALTH HAZARD INFORMATION

 

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This web page or any products found here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you find information here that is of interest to you, take it to your medical doctor for conversation and evaluation. Do not stop taking any prescription drugs without consulting with your medical doctor.

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