Important Health Warnings For Seniors

All the advancements in modern medicine have led to longer, healthier lives for many Americans. Unfortunately, living in this age of such rapid advancement can be perilous. Although agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) exist for the sole purpose of protecting consumers from such hazards, important safety information can still slip through the cracks.

While the manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices are skilled in marketing and distributing the next best drug therapy or device, it can take years after a product’s release—after patients have essentially served as a large-scale clinical trial—before the real problems are known.

Seniors—who often experience a higher rate of complications due to age-related conditions like heart disease or arthritis—need to be aware of dangerous drugs like Pradaxa and dangerous devices like hip implants. They need to discuss all of their medical options with a doctor and perhaps discover senior care options that can assist in a healthy lifestyle.

Seniors and Pradaxa

Pradaxa (dabigatran) is a prescription blood thinner that is used to prevent blood clots and stroke in patients with an irregular heartbeat. Starting at age 55, the risk of stroke more than doubles each decade, making seniors the population most affected by stroke as well as prescription blood thinners. Until Pradaxa came on the market in 2010, warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven) was the standard.

All blood thinners block the body’s ability to clot, so there is a risk of serious, potentially fatal bleeding. For patients aged 80-plus, the risk of suffering a major bleed is greatest, which is why it is important to monitor the blood thinning effects of the drug. Simply put, too little increases risk for stroke and too much increases risk of bleeding.

Warfarin accounts for nearly a third of all ER visits in seniors experiencing adverse drug reactions. Pradaxa also can lead to serious bleeding complications, which can be fatal. The biggest difference between the two is that an antidote exists to control bleeding with warfarin; with Pradaxa, there is little doctors can do to stop bleeding once it starts.

Pradaxa’s manufacturer, Boehringer Ingelheim, is facing many lawsuits that accuse the company of hiding the severity of the bleeding risks. The company maintains that the risk of bleeding while on Pradaxa is not disproportionately higher than similar drugs, despite the 2,367 adverse events and 542 deaths attributed to Pradaxa in 2011.

Seniors and Hip Implants

Seniors also need to be aware of the risks of certain hip implants.

The rate of arthritis increases with age, and arthritis pain is the number one reason patients undergo hip replacement surgery. That means the majority of hip replacement procedures are performed on seniors. The goal of hip replacement is to reduce pain and restore function, but for many who received hip implants between 2005 and 2012, the path to recovery has proven difficult.

The problems stem from a flawed design that allows two metal parts to rub against each other. The spreading of metal ions throughout the surrounding tissues and blood stream can trigger an adverse local tissue reaction (ALTR) and even metallosis (metal poisoning).

The long-term effects of metal poisoning are unknown, however it is known to cause pain and inflammation. Patients with these implants should be monitored closely. Doctors may use imaging tests to determine the health of bones and tissues surrounding the implant and blood tests to check for high levels of metal in the blood.

In many cases, these complications require revision surgery. These surgeries tend to be more complex with difficult recovery, not to mention stressful and expensive for patients. As a result, the manufacturers of recalled devices now face numerous lawsuits. 

Recalled Hip Implants

The idea of recalling an implant is a foreign concept for most people. But for patients who received a defective hip implant manufactured by DePuy Orthopaedics or Stryker Orthopaedics, this is the reality.

The average lifespan of a hip implant is at least 10 years, but more than 13 percent of patients who received DePuy’s ASR system needed revision surgery to replace the defective implant in less than half that time. The company only recently revealed that premature revision surgery may be necessary in as many as 40 percent of patients who received an ASR system.                                                                     

After launching in 2005 and being used in 90,000 surgeries worldwide, these abnormal rates of implant failure led to a global recall of the ASR systems in 2010.

After being released in 2009 and prior to being recalled in 2012, Stryker’s Rejuvenate and ABG II hip replacements were used in approximately 20,000 patients in the United States. Prompted by the high number of patients experiencing adverse effects, Stryker voluntarily removed these two hip replacement systems from the market.

Linda Grayling is a writer for Drugwatch.com. She enjoys keeping up with the latest news in the medical field. For up to date information follow Drugwatch on Twitter.

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