A recent study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine, and conducted by the federal Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research, suggests that narcotic-based painkillers taken for arthritis may pose significant bone and cardiovascular risks to the elderly. While it had been a widespread belief that narcotic painkillers, such as OxyContin, were safer for the elderly than their non-narcotic counterparts, this new study suggests otherwise.
Compared with two other control groups, patients taking narcotic-based painkillers were four times more likely to experience bone fractures resulting from falls, and also twice as likely to suffer heart attacks. The researchers did qualify the results, stating that results may have been affected by continued use of over-the-counter medicines. Additionally, as in any study, researchers noted that outside factors could have played a role in the results. The overall results are somewhat disturbing, however, particularly for patients and doctors who had been under the impression that narcotic-based pain medication was a safer alternative to non-narcotics.
Ultimately, medication and treatment decisions rest with the doctor, patient, and his or her family. This new study, however, does provide additional information to consider when making such decisions.
Website Resource: Narcotic Painkillers May Pose Danger to Elderly Patients, Study Says
New York Times, Barry Meier, December 13, 2010