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Fact or fiction: Research reveals the truth about common medications

April 2018 Share with   facebook   twitter

Helpful tips from McMaster Optimal Aging Portal


There may be no harm in believing some myths, such as waiting an hour after we eat before swimming. But when it comes to the medications you’re taking, myths and misconceptions can potentially be harmful. Here are five recent examples.

  1. Opioids for chronic pain?
    Opioids may only provide limited relief. To manage chronic pain, physicians are urged to recommend alternative treatments first, including antidepressants, exercise, acupuncture or mindfulness. Opioids may actually only provide limited relief. Tolerance to these drugs means many patients need increasing doses to manage pain, which can increase risk of harm. Learn more.

  2. Cholesterol pills to lower risk of dementia?
    Promising research evidence suggested that taking statins – cholesterol-lowering pills that improve heart health – could also reduce the risk of dementia. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. While some researchers believe heart health and Alzheimer's disease may be linked, current research shows that statin medications do not reduce the chance of getting dementia. Find out more about the research.

  3. Antipsychotics for people with dementia?
    Antipsychotic drugs help (to a degree) in managing challenging behaviours associated with dementia, but there are many side effects. Non-drug approaches should be considered first. Learn more about these options.

  4. Vitamin supplements for vision?
    Buyer beware! Research evidence shows conclusively that antioxidant supplements do not prevent or slow the progress of cataracts or macular degeneration. Read the myth-busting results.

  5. Prescribed treatment for heartburn?
    Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are among the most commonly prescribed medications in the world. That’s beginning to change as they are recognized as not necessary for many people. PPIs are widely prescribed for common gastrointestinal issues including heartburn from acid reflux, but many people can safely reduce or stop this medication. Learn more about the current recommendations.

Stay informed to avoid unnecessary medications
Medical researchers are always working to test the effectiveness of treatments and to assess their risk of side effects. New findings can contradict long-held beliefs. Staying in regular contact with your doctor and pharmacist will help ensure the drugs you’re taking are up-to-date and appropriate for your needs.

Do you value credible health information? The McMaster Optimal Aging Portal is a free website that gives you access to evidence-based information to help you age well and manage your health conditions.

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