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Patients Make Individual Choices Regarding Pain Drugs

Patients Make Individual Choices Regarding Pain Drugs

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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Ed Yeates ReportingIt's the fourth time in recent months the Food and Drug Administration has warned consumers about the safety of a pain reliever. Naproxen, the active ingredient in Aleve, has been on the market for thirty years and was widely thought to protect against heart problems. But today federal officials said naproxen could increase people's risk of heart attack or stroke.

The warning stems from a three-year study examining the effects of naproxen on Alzheimer's patients. Researchers found a 50-percent increase in patient risk for heart problems, enough they halted the study.

Dr. Bruce Hensel, UCLA Medical School: “You should not panic. These drugs still are useful and safe for many people, in the right doses. The best advice, don’t exceed the recommended dosage.”

The FDA warning advises patients not to take naproxen for more than ten days unless directed by a doctor.

With Aleve the latest drug under attack, patients see their options for controlling severe pain fading away. They're concerned, and so are many of their doctors. Understandably so; arthritis patients especially are wondering if all this conflict eventually will leave them high and dry. They see too many of their new generation inhibitor drugs, which have worked so well, getting shot down like targets in a shooting gallery.

It’s hard to believe Ray Kays was once crippled with Rheumatoid arthritis. The drug Celebrex has turned him around. Without it…

Ray Kays, Arthritis Patient: “No, I doubt very much that I would be able to write at all.”

And Ray needs to write to do his job. His choice this morning, after meeting with his rheumatologist is to stay on it for now. A study using high doses of Celebrex or Naproxin to treat Alzheimer's patients was halted this week after researchers noted an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. If the Government now told Ray he could no longer use his favorite drug…

Ray Kays: "I would probably be forced to go back to ibuprofen which caused a bleeding ulcer several years back, which was very serious."

Meanwhile, the Salt Lake Veterans Hospital made a decision today on ALL of the inhibitor drugs now in question.

Grant Cannon, M.D., Rheumatology, S.L. Veterans Hospital: “"Actually the decision has been made right now to not use them at the moment. We're debating that internally to see if that's the best thing to do for our patients."

Risk vs benefit! Rheumatologists like Dr. grant Cannon worry that crucial philosophy is being eroded by what many call paranoia over possible risk factors - that for younger arthritis patients, may never be an outweighing factor.

Grant Cannon, M.D.: "What we're always trying to do with every patient is making sure that we are giving a drug to a patient that is helping them more than hurting them. And that's the thing that's really being taken away from us. It really limits the ability we have to make that risk benefit assessment with the patient."

For many of these arthritis patients who are getting relief now like they've never had before, that risk-benefit decision has already been made. Ray Kays: “It’s quality of life that a person looks for.”

Through all this debate right now, rheumatologists like Dr. Cannon are being cautious - sitting down with patients, explaining what's known so far, and helping them make an individual decision, like Ray has done.

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