Inadequate Testing Of Medicines?

I have long been of the opinion that many of the medicines we regularly throw down our throats are not always as safe as the makers will have us believe. A new report out today indicates this may well be true.

A study which has appeared in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reports that many drugs taken by the over 65’s, which let’s face it, are when we most need them, can in fact be harmful and lead to reduced brain function and even death. Many of the 80 drugs tested are ‘over-the-counter’ medicines like codeine, while others are prescription only.

Many older people take drugs for heart disease, depression and allergies among other things but the most significant danger was for those taking certain ‘high risk’ medication or a ‘cocktail’ of medicines on a daily basis.

Brain Cell Activity

The research team was concentrating on drugs that affected the working of a particular chemical in the brain, namely acetylcholine. This is a neurotransmitter that passes messages between the the nerve cells in the brain, but the working of this chemical is often interrupted by side-affects from many modern medicines.

Among 13,000 old timers surveyed from 1991 to 1993, of those taking drugs that affected brain cell activity the most, 20% died. From another group taking no anticholinergic drugs that did not affect brain function, only 4 % died. The report does stress that anyone taking medicines should not under any circumstances stop taking them without first consulting with their doctor.

The researchers say that the results are not conclusive and in no way indicate that taking them will kill you, but they do indicate there is ‘an association’. In the meanwhile the research will continue.

Urticaria - It Can Itch Like Hell!

I myself had a few months of fairly mild urticaria (similar to nettle rash) which was caused by the unfortunate combination of two medicines prescribed by my doctor. I had been taking one drug for about six years (and no its not on the list) with no ill effects at all. It did the job it was supposed to do and everything was fine. Last year I had another small problem, nothing significant, but my doctor prescribed me a drug to solve it. The combination of the two in my system was sufficient to cause the skin sickness. Since that time I no longer take the second medicine and have changed the older one. Now after many months I am free of it again (touch wood!).

New advances are being made on drug therapy on a daily basis and most are ‘fit for purpose’. The drug companies test them first on rats and mice and then proceed to ‘clinical trials’, which if successful will lead to it being submitted to the relevant government department for approval before being released for general use.

The Result Of Thalidomide Not Being Properly Tested!

For sure, these companies do not want a repeat of the thalidomide disaster of the sixties, for that caused horrific birth defects in children in which an entire generation suffered. This episode has haunted the pharmaceutical industry for forty years,  so they have to be careful.

They always point out that you should read the accompanying leaflet that comes with all medicines these days, and some people do while others don’t bother. I must admit that after my little escapade I pay much more attention than I used to.

A New Wonder Drug In The Making?

My concern however is that pharmaceutical companies and doctors should pay more attention to testing. It is not sufficient to grab ten people off the street, ram them full of your new ‘wonder drug’ and hope for the best. Yes! I know its not that simple but you know what I mean.

I know it is a big headache for the drug companies because everyone’s physiology is different, and what may be good for one is no good for the other, but that doesn’t release them from their basic responsibility.

If, as in the case of the drugs mentioned in this report, certain medicines can interfere with brain function, then more thorough testing should have been done in this area, even if it involved a long term study. You cannot sell medicines that will eventually cause dementia or even death in patients.

A Pensioner's Lottery Ticket?

The trouble is of course, these days everything is driven by profit, and among pharmaceutical companies like all others, competition is fierce. They are constantly striving to be the first to bring out a new wonder drug, and I will be the first to admit they have changed the lives of a great many people. We live longer, even with deadly diseases like cancer because of this industry and naturally enough we are all thankful. In general they do a good job, but I have to say this new research leaves room for thought.

Roy.

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