I have had the good fortune to connect with Jennifer Mesko, Managing Editor of a great website and resource, Drugwatch.com. When I asked about the latest on dangerous medications or medical devices for those who are caregivers or in geriatric care management, she offered these comments.
Nearly every senior in the United States relies on one or more drugs or medical devices to improve their lives. Most of the time, these drugs and medical devices help them deal with pain or a medical condition, and keep up an active lifestyle –and they can even save their lives.
Sometimes, however, drugs and medical devices do more harm than good. When a manufacturer fails to disclose the risks of its products, people can end up getting much worse instead of getting better.
As a caregiver, you likely play a key role in someone else’s medical care and may be responsible for making sure medicine is taken on schedule – or that surgery is scheduled when necessary. Here are a few products you should be aware of:
Just like prescription drugs, some over-the-counter drugs can be dangerous. Tylenol, for example, is taken by millions of people every day. Just recently, however, reports of serious liver problems have come to light.
The problem occurs when someone overdoses on Tylenol, often by accident. If one of your patients is taking cold medicine in addition to Tylenol, for example, you need to check to make sure the cold medicine does not also contain acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol).
If more than 4,000 mg of Tylenol is taken within 24 hours, the drug builds up in the body and can overload the liver and cause organ damage or even death. Carefully monitor your loved one’s medications to ensure he or she is not taking too much acetaminophen at once.
Another drug that caretakers should be especially careful with is Pradaxa. The drug is a blood thinner that reduces the risk of blood clots. Unfortunately, because the blood is thin, patients can experience uncontrollable bleeding after a minor scrape or cut. There is currently no antidote to this bleeding, which can lead to death.
Reports show that Pradaxa side effects such as heart attack and uncontrollable bleeding led to more than 500 deaths in 2011. More than 1,000 patients and family members have filed lawsuits after Pradaxa injuries. Talk to the patient’s doctor to discuss what to do in a bleeding emergency.
Your loved one may require a joint replacement, just like hundreds of thousands of others do each year. Most of the time, this type of surgery helps relieve pain and restore mobility. Unfortunately, not all hip and knee implants are safe or effective. Before the surgery, talk to the surgeon about which implant will be used.
Some hips, including the Biomet M2a Magnum and Depuy ASR, can create problems because they have two or more metal parts. As the components rub against each other during normal activities, the implant sheds metal particles into the body. This can lead to metal poisoning, which requires revision surgery.
Knee implants can also be problematic. Patients have reported numerous complications from the Zimmer NexGen Flex Knee system, including loosening, dislocation, implant failure and intense pain. Artificial knee joints are expected to last 10-15 years, but Zimmer NexGen implants can fail after just a couple of years.
Drugs and medical devices are an important part of everyday life for most seniors. As a caregiver, it’s vital that you find out as much information as possible before dispensing medications or agreeing to a medical device for your loved one. Do your research, talk to the doctor and make sure that the ones you love avoid these dangerous outcomes.
Jennifer Mesko is the managing editor of Drugwatch.com, a consumer advocacy website. She keeps consumers informed about prescription drugs and medical devices that could put them at risk.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are senior care management professionals, geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.