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Dangerous drugs

Dangerous drugs
By: Mary-Ann Maloney

A few months ago, Consumer Reports magazine listed what it considered to be the most dangerous drugs approved by the Federal Drug Administration. While noting that most of the risks are uncommon or rate, the magazine still insists that consumers should only use these medications as a last resort. I talked with heartland doctors about five of the 13: Crestor, Celebrex, Elidel; Serevent and Accutane.

Dr. Anthony Keele of Cape Girardeau says he is probably the number one prescriber of Crestor in this area, despite Consumer Reports magazine article. Hundreds of Dr. Keele's patients take Crestor to control their cholesterol. Crestor has been known to cause muscle pain, nausea and numbness in the fingers or toes. Still, Dr. Keele insists the benefits of the drug far outweigh any risks.

Celebrex is used to treat arthritis pain. The drug can cause ulcers, bleeding or holes in the stomach or intestine. These symptoms can happen without warning and they can kill you. Dr. Keele says the most important thing a patient can do is talk to his doctor and know what "can" happen. Dr. Keele says half of his patients will have gestational trouble with Celebrex and other arthritis medications. The key is to tell your doctor if you're having any problems and if you are, talk to him about switching to another drug.

Dr. Janna Tuck prescribes Serevent to be used in conjunction with inhaled steroids. Dr. Tuck says Serevent must never be taken alone. Although Serevent made Consumer Reports list, Dr. Tuck insists it's a good drug if used properly. She also advises patients not to quit taking any medication until they talk to their doctor.

Accutane and Elidel are drugs most often prescribed by dermatologists like Dr. Hal Brown of Cape Girardeau. Accutane treats severe cases of acne, Elidel is for eczema. Accutane is dangerous if you're pregnant or become pregnant. It can also lead to depression, something that Dr. Brown has seen in one percent of his patients. If that happens, Dr. Brown discontinues the use of the medication. Consumer Reports says that a small number of patients who've used Elidel have developed skin cancer. Dr. Brown says there has been no established cause and effect between the drug and the disease. However, he insists that Elidel should only be used as prescribed and not as a skin moisturizer.

Estrogen is used to ease symptoms of menopause and post menopausal osteoporosis. Consumer Reports says it can lead to an increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and blood clots. It recommends that it only be used short-term for menopausal discomfort and as a last resort for osteoporosis.

Ovide treats head lice. Consumer Reports says it can cause flammability of hair and suggests you only use it if every other option has failed.

Lariam helps prevent malaria. Consumer Reports says it can cause disorientation and severe anxiety. People who've had psychological problems in the past should seek other treatment according to the magazine.

Depo-Provera is a contraceptive. Consumer Reports warns that it can cause irreversible bone loss and suggests discussing alternatives with your doctor.

If you're battling weight, you may have considered the drug Meridia. Consumer Reports warns that it can increase your blood pressure and heart rate and may lead to heart attack, cardiac arrest or memory trouble. You shouldn't use it, so says the magazine, if you have heart disease, hypertension or have other significant coronary risk factors.

Zoloft and Effexor are medicines used to combat anxiety and depression. The magazine says they can increase suicidal tendencies initially or after dosage changes, particularly in children and teens but possibly in adults as well. All antidepressants may have similar risks, but current evidence appears stronger for SSRIs, the class that Zoloft and Effexor fall into.

Zelnorm is used to treat irritable bowel syndrome with constipation. Consumer Reports says it can cause potentially dangerous diarrhea and other intestinal problems. The magazine says you should use it only if safer options don't help.

Finally, the drug Protopic is used to treat eczema. A small number of people who used it, according to Consumer Reports, developed skin cancer or lymphoma. The magazine says more study is needed, but that people who use the ointment may have a greater risk of developing cancer.

The bottom line is that all medications, even aspirin, can have side effects. You need to know what you're taking, how it can affect you and interact with other medications or foods. The smartest thing to do is to talk to your doctor about the medication he or she puts you on, to determine if it's right for you. As I mentioned earlier, the risks from these prescriptions are uncommon and rare. Never stop taking a medication without your doctor's approval.

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