Medications and Hip Implants that Seniors Should Know About

Today, more seniors are living longer and more active lives. Modern medicine provides several ways to maintain health, quality of life and independence, including new prescription medications and more advanced joint prostheses, such as hip implants.

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“bluegreen_owie” by Cindy Funk, on Flickr

New hip implants last longer and provide more natural movement of the hip. Previously, hip implants were used just to relieve pain. Now, modern hip implant designs even allow many people to play sports with their new hips. Newer, more effective and convenient prescription medications help keep chronic illness at bay and prevent strokes and heart conditions from worsening.

This is great news for seniors, their families and caregivers, but the influx of new drugs and medical devices on the market can also present a unique problem. Some drugs and devices may pose unknown risks that cause complications and side effects instead of improving a patient’s health.

What to be Aware of with Diabetes Medications

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects more than 25 percent of adults 65 or older, and in fact being in this age group is also one of the risk factors for developing this disease. Medications for type 2 diabetes are some of the most prescribed in the country, and each American with the disease spends thousands on care each year – including the cost of prescription medications to manage blood sugar.

These drugs are not without risks, and some seniors may even take more than one diabetes medication, increasing their risk of side effects.

One new class of type 2 diabetes drugs called incretin therapies has stirred a lot of controversy for its link to pancreatic problems. The class is made up to two types of drugs: glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists and dipeptidylpeptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors. GLP-1 drugs include brand-name injectable drugs such as Victoza and Byetta, while DPP-4 drugs include oral pills Januvia and Tradjenta.

Three separate reports released in 2013 questioned the drugs’ safety and linked them to inflammation of the pancreas, called pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer – both of which can be fatal. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the studies did not provide enough evidence to link the drugs to pancreatic cancer, they did acknowledge their link to pancreatitis, which in turn may lead to cancer.

Not only that, but according to Consumer Reports’ 2012 report on diabetes medications, newer drugs don’t work much better than older ones, which cost less. Seniors and their caregivers should make sure they talk to their doctors about their concerns and discuss whether the benefits of a drug outweigh the risks.

Diabetes drugs are not the only drugs to look into; there are others:

  • Blood-clotting medications such as Pradaxa and Xarelto are used to prevent strokes, but they also increase the risk of uncontrollable bleeding, which can be fatal.
  • Statins like Lipitor are prescribed to lower cholesterol and protect the heart, but this drug can cause diabetes in women.
  • Tylenol overdose is the No. 1 cause of acute liver failure in the country; the drug can also cause a dangerous skin condition that can be fatal.

Some Hip Implants Have Better Safety Record than Others

As people age, their joints and bones are more susceptible to injuries from trauma or degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis. Some of these health issues are crippling and affect a senior’s ability to remain mobile. As such, joint replacement surgery is becoming more common. There are a number of manufacturers that offer various implants.

However, some manufacturers did not properly test their devices before making them available to the public and the designs of these devices may pose serious problems. For instance, metal-on-metal implants — with two or more metal pieces that rub against each other — can release bits of metal into the blood and surrounding tissues, causing tissue and bone death and early implant failure.

Companies don’t always warn patients about safety concerns, however. One man with one of these dangerous implants filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson after he received a DePuy ASR hip and sustained crippling injuries, including tissue damage and metal poisoning. During the trial, internal documents surfaced showing that the company knew that 40 percent of ASR implants would fail within five years, but patients were not warned.

Patients who had trouble with these implants reported complications, including extreme pain, fracture, infection and premature implant failure that required more surgery to correct.

Other hip implants with a questionable safety profile include:

When it comes to health care, the best decisions are the ones based on good information. Take the time to talk to your doctor, and check up on the drugs and devices you or a loved one may be using. It may involve a little extra effort and diligence, but your safety or the safety of a loved one is worth it.

Bio: Michelle Y. Llamas is a writer and researcher for Drugwatch.com and the host of Drugwatch Radio. She has written for medical journals and been a guest on podcasts focused on health.

Sources:

Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs. (2012) The Oral Diabetes Drugs: Treating Type 2 Diabetes. Retrieved from http://www.consumerreports.org/health/resources/pdf/best-buy-drugs/DiabetesUpdate-FINAL-Feb09.pdf

Institute for Safe Medication Practices. (2012, May 31). QuarterWatch New Data from 2011 Quarters 3 – 4. Retrieved from http://www.ismp.org/quarterwatch/pdfs/2011Q4.pdf

Stevens, T., & Conwell, D. L. (2011). Acute pancreatitis. Retrieved from http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/gastroenterology/acute-pancreatitis/

Perry, S. (2013, June 10). New generation of diabetes drugs raising more concerns. Minnesota Post. Retrieved from http://www.minnpost.com/second-opinion/2013/06/new-generation-diabetes-drugs-raising-more-concerns

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