Elderly people, especially those over 80, who take the blood-thinning medicine warfarin to prevent heart attacks or strokes, may be at a greater risk for serious brain hemorrhage, according to a new study released this week in the Journal of Neurology.
According to a Jan. 9 article written by Jamie Talan in Newsday, scientists at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine found that use of the anticoagulant medicine increase in the 1990s and a radical increase in prescriptions caused a rise in the number of these drug-induced brain hemorrhages, especially among older users.
The article quotes Dr. Matthew Flaherty lead author of the study. “We’ve had no idea how often this was happening,” he said. Use of the blood thinner increased after many studies showed warfarin was effective at preventing ischemic strokes in people with atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm, Flaherty said.
The new study also suggests warfarin, which is sold under many brands including Coumadin, may cause problems of its own.
“The benefit comes with a potential price, the risk of a brain bleed,” Flaherty said, in the article. In fact, the article says, many doctors now believe that the risk of taking warfarin may outweigh the benefits in older patients. The risk of a brain bleed is rather high: One in three will die the first day and 66 percent within a year.
If you are taking warfarin check with your doctor regarding appropriateness of continuing to take it.
Most all drugs have unwanted side effects. It is essential for our personal health that we each take responsibility to know the side effects of medications that we take. It is up to each of us to weight the benefits against the detriments of each medication to determine if the risks of use are worth their purported benefit.
It is up to the maker of our medications to know and warn us of all side effects of their medications. It is up to the FDA to only approve medications that are truly a benefit and to insist on full and complete warnings of side effects.
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