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  1. Anticholinergic drugs linked to dementia in seniors

    Common drugs in new dementia link

    It's a mistake millions of people make each day: They assume a drug, like anticholinergic drugs  is safe simply because it's common or available over the counter.

    The reality, of course, is that nothing could be further from the truth.

    Common meds pack more risks than most people realize -- and new research confirms some of the most common drugs of all can speed you down the path toward cognitive decline and dementia.

    And in some cases, you can literally feel the brain-robbing effects in as little as two months.

    They are called anticholinergics drugs, and odds are you've taken them from time to time yourself. They're used for allergies, sleep disorders, stomach problems, nausea, motion sickness, depression, anxiety, bladder control, seizures, muscle spasms, and more.

    Some of them are household names -- like Tylenol PM, Zantac, Dramamine, and Benadryl, just to name a few. Others are less common -- but that doesn't mean that they pose any less potential dangers.

    In the new study of anticholinergic drugs  , researchers found that taking a single drug with strong anticholinergic effects for just 60 days could double your risk of cognitive decline. Weaker drugs have a weaker risk, but not by much: Taking two or more weaker anticholinergic drugs may boost the odds of cognitive decline by 50 percent over 90 days, according to the study of 3,690 seniors.

    The problem here is that many people who take anticholinergic drugs don't realize it. Plenty of them have never even heard the word or know what it means, much less understand the risks -- risks that along with cognitive decline include dementia and even death.

    Now that you know the risks, it's time to go through your own medicine chest and see if there are any of these drugs in your life right now. I don't have the space here to list every possible anticholinergic drug, but you can find several good resources online.

    One fairly thorough list can be found here. Since this list doesn't use brand names, make sure you're familiar with the generic names of your medications before you look them up (it should be right on the label). And if you find you're taking any prescription drugs with anticholinergic effects, contact your doctor and ask about your other options.

    If he won't help, find someone who will. I recommend an experienced holistic physician.

    And for more on the risks of taking anticholinergics, Health Revelations subscribers should be on the lookout for their July issue. If you're not already a subscriber, it's not too late. If you sign up now you will get access to my entire archive of back issues. Click here to learn more.

  2. The darkest shade of green

    Imagine a drug that failed to meet basic targets set by the FDA, came with a higher risk of side effects than its predecessors, and was found to be so unimpressive and even dangerous that the agency's own experts advised against approving it.

    Now, stop imagining -- and just take a look at Aricept 23, because an explosive new analysis in BMJ says that's exactly how this drug reached the market.

    How did it happen? Let me back up to 2010, when the original Aricept -- a drug that did up to $2 billion a year in sales -- was about to lose its patent protection.

    Once cheap generics flood the market, it's usually the end of the line for the money train -- unless you have a few tricks up your sleeve, like what the industry calls "evergreening."

    That's a slight tweak to help extend the drug's profitable life. It might be a timed-release formula, the addition of a second drug to the mix, or even a change to the dosage itself -- and when the FDA signs off on it, the "new" drug gets three more years of protection.

    In this case, it was a change to the dose. While "old" Aricept had been approved in 5 mg and 10 mg doses, Aricept 23 is -- as the name implies -- 23 milligrams of the drug.

    The feds said this high dose would be approved only if it beat the lower doses in two key areas: overall cognition and global functioning.

    That shouldn't have been too hard, since the old formula was thoroughly unimpressive itself. But Aricept 23 offered only tiny improvements in cognition and no changes at all in the more important measure of global function -- and came with a higher risk of nausea and vomiting as well.

    Those side effects are bad enough for a healthy person. But for an Alzheimer's patient, they could be dangerous and even deadly.

    No matter. An agency bigwig went against the advice of his own experts and approved the drug anyway -- just four months before the expiration of the original Aricept patent.

    Since the generics would only be available in the old 5 mg and 10 mg doses, even a combination of pills wouldn't add up to the "new and improved" dose. The only way to get it was to keep buying the expensive brand-name version.

    In other words, the new formula of Aricept didn't protect dementia patients from the ravages of the disease -- but it did protect the profits of the drug's makers, with three years of fresh patent protection.

  3. How to know when you're having a heart attack

    You might think heart attacks don't discriminate, but that's not actually true. They do discriminate -- and it's a form of discrimination that's killing women.
  4. Rejected diet drug returns from the grave

    A "no" from the FDA never quite means "no" -- not when it comes to the agency's drug-industry pals, anyway. Case in point: The feds said "no" to the diet drug Contrave earlier this year over its potential for heart risk -- even after an FDA panel signed off on it.
  5. Natural solutions for gout

    Gout used to be known as "the rich man's disease" because it usually struck the wealthy -- the only ones who could afford to over-consume the foods that cause this painful form of arthritis. Today, you don't have to be rich (or even a man) to suffer from gout -- just fat. And since more people are fatter than ever before, more people are also battling the foot pain that marks this condition.
  6. New instructions for Tylenol

    J&J says the changes it will make -- next year, mind you, not today -- will help stop the overuse that's turned the drug's main ingredient, acetaminophen, into the leading cause of liver failure in the United States. But they're not changing the drug.
  7. Dangers of "morning sickness pill"

    Metoclopramide is typically used to treat nausea and vomiting. Since those happen to be the main symptoms of morning sickness, some folks think it might be a good idea to give it to pregnant women.

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