The elderly are often prescribed more medicine than they actually need by their doctors. Some of these medicines are for the purpose of ‘preventing’ certain diseases. The latest debate over the controversy surrounding over-medicating the elderly is focused on statins.
The New York Times reports on the debate surrounding statins. Many senior citizens are prescribed statins to prevent heart disease if they have slightly high cholesterol. But reports show that these medications might be unnecessary. Seniors might be incurring the extra cost and side effects of these medicines for no solid reason. “Dr. Kamel, an Arkansas geriatrician who is vice chair of AMDA’s clinical practice committee, said that there is scarce scientific evidence supporting the use of statins by 70- or 80-year-olds without pre-existing cardiovascular disease. Only a handful of studies have focused on outcomes (heart attacks, strokes, premature death) in this older population,” according to The Times.
Many of these seniors have healthy hearts and are only being prescribed statins for baseless purposes. The Times reports, “There is evidence of harm linked to statin use in seniors, he added, including muscle aches, liver toxicity and gastrointestinal distress; growing evidence of impaired memory and a heightened risk of diabetes; and some evidence of an increased risk of cancer.”
The FDA even issued a new requirement in 2012 forcing statin companies to list memory loss and diabetes as side effects. “Our recommendation is that physicians weigh the potential risks and benefits and not automatically prescribe these medications, Dr. Kamel said. That advice applies only to seniors who haven’t been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease,” according to The Times. Many experts concur with these reports, which seriously warn against the use of statins without good reason. Seniors are being urged to consult their doctor about whether the statins they are taking are necessary.