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Yet another drug that is over-used and . . .

You can finish this sentence without my help, I’m sure: May cause way more problems than it solves.

The drug in this case is baclofen, a muscle-relaxant commonly (way too commonly?) prescribed for , well, muscle relaxation from conditions such as back pain.

Well, guess who gets most back pain?

Seniors, of course, so no surprise that this drug is commonly prescribed to seniors, who, among other things, are also often taking other medications (sometimes 5-10) with which baclofen can inter-react, and who often have other chronic health problems, and who often have reduced kidney function (kidney function, which like so many other things, goes down quite routinely as we age).

And unfortunately, too, doctors often prescribe higher doses of many drugs – like baclofen and gabapentin – to seniors because lower doses don’t seem to work as well (that’s partly because, of course, so many drugs are not nearly as effective as doctors have been led to believe they are).

So no surprise, I would say, that in a recent Canadian study of roughly 16,000 people which was just presented at the American Society of Nephrology annual meeting in Washington, D.C, seniors who were prescribed high doses of baclofen and who had lowered kidney function had a much greater risk of being hospitalized with severe confusion masquerading as acute stroke-like symptoms than seniors not prescribed this drug.

To put a more exact number on this, and to really underline how bad the problem is, the researchers concluded that “kidney patients prescribed baclofen at 20 mg/day or higher had nearly 20 times the relative risk of being hospitalized for an altered mental state, compared with patients not taking the drug”.

Bottom line is the same-old same-old: All drugs come with risks so when you’re prescribed a drug – any drug – or even when you pick up an OTC drug on your own, and you’re taking this drug not to save your life but to get a bit more comfort, please make bloody sure that you know the benefits are sure to outweigh the risks, bearing in mind, too, that we simply don’t know the ultimate risks of many meds out there.