Benzodiazepines Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease

Most of us take medications knowing there is a risk of side effects, but that risk is small, right? Surely the FDA ensures the health benefits outweigh these minor inconveniences, right? But what if I told you that if your grandmother took a sleeping pill, she’d be 50% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease? Do I have your attention now?

Benzodiazepines linked to Alzheimer's Disease.A study published in the British Journal of Medicine has yielded some startling results. Researchers found that for older adults who took benzodiazepines for at least 90 days, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease was increased by 43% to 51% during a five year period.

The study also revealed that people who were on a long-acting benzodiazepine like diazepam (Valium) and flurazepam (Dalmane) were at greater risk than those on a short-acting one like triazolam (Halcion), lorazepam (Ativan), alprazolam (Xanax), and temazepam (Restoril).

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a class drugs used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and a range of other conditions. Commonly known as tranquilizers, these medications act directly on the brain and central nervous system, affecting a person’s mood. They are one of the most widely prescribed medications in the U.S., particularly among elderly patients. Benzos are commonly divided in groups:

Short-acting anti-anxiety benzodiazepines

  • alprazolam (Xanax)
  • lorazepam (Ativan)
  • oxazepam (Seresta)
  • diazepam (Valium)

Longer-acting anti-seizure and “hypnotic” drugs frequently used to treat insomnia:

  • clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • flurazepam (Dalmane)midazolam (Versed)
  • nitrazepam (Mogadon)
  • temazepam (Restoril)
  • triazolam (Halcion)

The authors of the study warn that doctors should “carefully balance the benefits and risks when initiating or renewing a treatment with benzodiazepines and related products in older patients.” Although the study only included elderly patients, it is important for people of all ages to discuss the use of benzodiazepines with their health care provider.

Other Risks

It is important to note that benzodiazepines may pose other serious risks for seniors. In 2012, the American Geriatrics Society added benzodiazepines to their list of Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults. The group warned that an increased sensitivity to benzodiazepines and decreased metabolism of long-acting agents could pose serious dangers, stating, “In general, all benzodiazepines increase risk of cognitive impairment, delirium, falls, fractures, and motor vehicle accidents in older adults.”

Source:

de Gage, S.B., Moride, Y., Ducruet, T., et al. Benzodiazepine use and risk of Alzheimer’s disease: case-control study. BMJ 2014; 349:g5205. Published September 9, 2014. Accessed October 29, 2014.

Using Technology to Prevent Bedsores

For millions of Americans, staying in a long-term healthcare facility means an increased risk of developing bedsores. Also known as pressure ulcers, these skin lesions can cause serious and painful infections of the skin, bones and joints. Complications can include tissue and nerve damage, organ failure and even cancer.

Bedsores can be prevented.The best way to prevent pressure sores from occurring is to reposition patients frequently – doctors recommend changing positions every two hours. Unfortunately, with many nursing homes and other long-term healthcare facilities woefully understaffed, many patients are neglected. As a result, more than 2.5 million people in the United States develop pressure ulcers every ear.

Preventing Bedsores with Patient Monitors

An exciting new medical device may hold the answer to this pervasive medical mistake. A company called Leaf Healthcare, Inc. has developed a wearable patient sensor, which can help medical professionals reduce bedsores. Created for healthcare facilities, the Leaf System is comprised of patient sensors and a wireless central monitoring system. The system electronically monitors patients’ position and movements, recording each time a patient is moved and alerting caregivers when patients need to be repositioned.

Leaf Healthcare recently conducted a multiphase clinical trial, which yielded encouraging results. According to a news release, “The study showed that use of the device increased compliance with hospital turn protocols – a standard of care method to prevent pressure ulcers – from a baseline of 64 percent at the start of the trial to 98 percent after the monitoring system was deployed.”

Nursing Home Residents’ Rights

Section 3721.13 of the Ohio Revised Code provides residents of nursing homes with certain rights. Among these is the right to an “adequate and appropriate” level of care, which includes taking steps to prevent bedsores. If you have questions about nursing home neglect or abuse, including whether standards of care are being met, contact our experienced attorneys for a free, confidential case review.

 

*Links to other sites are for informational purposes only. The inclusion of links to other web sites does not imply any endorsement of the material on the web sites or any association with their operators. 

 

Sources:

Tarver, Chris; Schutt, Suann; Pezzani, Michelle. “We’re Sensing You! A Multiphase Clinical Trial Examining Innovative Technology to Improve Patient-Turning Compliance.” [Presentation]. ANCC National Magnet Conference® Dallas, TX. 08 October 2014 to 10 October 2014.

 Leaf Healthcare, Inc., (16 Oct. 2014). “Study Shows Leaf Healthcare Wearable Sensor Dramatically Improves Compliance with Pressure-Ulcer Prevention Efforts.” [Press Release]. [Accessed 28 Oct. 2014].

Airbags Exploding Like IEDs – Car Occupants Hit with Shrapnel

In an urgent message to consumers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recalled millions of vehicles due to defective airbags, which can spontaneously explode and seriously harm passengers.

According to government officials, owners of affected Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Ford, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Subaru and General Motors vehicles should take “immediate action” to replace defective airbags, produced by Japanese manufacturer, Takata. The message is especially urgent for drivers in warm climates with high humidity.

In an interview with ABC News, auto safety expert Sean Kane said the problem with the Takata airbags is its internal inflator.

“[It’s] the canister which sits in the center of the airbag, it’s like a metal can,” Kane said. “When that’s ignited, it’s overpressurizing the canister and the canister is exploding, much like an IED [improvised explosive device], and sending shrapnel into the occupants of the vehicle.”

Kane also said that the explosions have resulted in “severe lacerations” and caused at least four deaths.

On its website, the NHTSA lists more than 7.8 million vehicles with model years from 2000 to 2006 – as well as the 2011 Honda Element — that have been subject to related recalls over the past two years and strongly urges owners to take them to their dealers immediately.

Failure to Warn

In an article dated September 11, 2014, The New York Times revealed that Honda and the airbag supplier have known about this life-threatening flaw for at least a decade:

The danger of exploding air bags was not disclosed for years after the first reported incident in 2004, despite red flags — including three additional ruptures reported to Honda in 2007, according to interviews, regulatory filings and court records.

In each of the incidents, Honda settled confidential financial claims with people injured by the air bags, but the automaker did not issue a safety recall until late 2008, and then for only a small fraction — about 4,200 — of its vehicles eventually found to be equipped with the potentially explosive air bags.

Consumers who are uncertain whether their vehicle is impacted by the Takata recalls, or any other recall, can check on www.safercar.gov/vinlookup. On the site, you can search for recalls by vehicle identification number (VIN) and sign-up for NHTSA recall alerts, which go out before recall letters are mailed by the manufacturers to the affected owners.

Sources:

Halsey, Ashley, III. “Airbag Defect Spurs Recall of 4.7 Million Vehicles.” Washington Post, October 20, 2014. Web. Accessed October 21, 2014.

Tabuchi, Hiroko. “Air Bag Flaw, Long Known to Honda and Takata, Led to Recalls.” The New York Times, September 11, 2014. Web. Accessed October 21, 2014.

Tips for Choosing a Safe Halloween Costume

costumeHappy Halloween from your friends at Elk & Elk! Follow these simple tips when selecting a Halloween costume to help keep your little ghouls and goblins safe while trick-or-treating!

Is Your Halloween Costume Safe?

  • Select costumes made of fire-retardant fabric. Look for labels that indicate flame-resistance on all costumes, wigs, and hats. If you are making your own costume, choose material that won’t easily ignite if it comes into contact with heat or flame. When choosing a costume, stay away from billowing or long trailing fabric.
  • Consider make-up instead of masks. Face paint is a safer choice than a mask, which may obscure your child’s vision or make it hard to breathe. Kids frequently have sensitive skin, so be sure any make-up is hypoallergenic non-toxic. If you do opt for a mask, make sure the eye holes are large enough and encourage kids to remove masks before crossing the street.
  • Be seen. When possible, choose light-colored costumes for better visibility. For dark costumes, attach strips of reflective tape, glow sticks or have kids carry a bright goodie bag to make them easier for motorists to spot. Provide flashlights with fresh batteries to light their way.
  • Avoid oversized costumes and shoes. Choose comfortable shoes and make sure clothes don’t drag on the ground.
  • Choose accessories carefully. Fasten all wigs, hats and scarves securely to prevent them from slipping over your child’s eyes. If your little one will be carrying a weapon, make sure it doesn’t look too realistic. Opt for swords, knives, and other accessories that are smooth and flexible without sharp ends or points.

Teach Your Child to Trick-or-Treat Safely

Safe costumes are a great start, but always remember to review pedestrian rules with kids before they head out:

  • Young children should always be accompanied by an adult or an older, responsible child
  • WALK – don’t run – when going from house to house
  • Use the sidewalk if available, rather than walk in the street
  • Don’t run out from between parked cars, or across lawns
  • Never enter a home or apartment unless accompanied by an adult