An alarming new study warns kidney dysfunction patients are more likely to be hospitalised due to severe mental disorientation if they take a prescribed muscle relaxant called baclofen. The study was conducted by a team from theICES Western, Western University and Lawson Health Research Institute.
"When we looked at people with low kidney function (30 per cent or less) who received a high dose of baclofen from their prescriber, approximately one in 25 were being admitted to hospital with severe confusion, typically over the next few days," Dr Amit Garg,a professor at Western University and Scientist at ICES and Lawson, told a news portal.
Adding, "If you compare that to a group of people who had low kidney function who didn't get baclofen, that risk is less than one in 500, so it's quite a dramatic difference between the two groups."
According to the research, one in 25 patients with low kidney function were hospitalised within a few days of taking the commonly prescribed muscle relaxant. Patients were suffering from severe confusion and exhibited other cognitive-related symptoms.
Researchers investigated a group of approximately 16,000 people in Ontario with kidney disease. They made note of those who took baclofen between 2007 and 2018. The team then compared that information to close to 300,000 kidney disease patients who had never taken the drug.
The reason this drug is widely prescribed is that the side-effects were unknown, according to Dr Peter Blake, a Lawson scientist and co-author of the study. "It came to my clinical attention dealing with patients with advanced kidney failure, that this drug that is generally thought to be relatively harmless, appeared to be the precipitant of severe confusion," Dr Blake told a news portal. Adding, "These are patients who had previously been very oriented, and they were suddenly extremely confused and when you took a history, we understood that they had recently started this drug, baclofen."
Dr Garg worries about the dosage as current prescribing guidelines recommend a lower dose for patients with the medical condition. "We found that in current practice most patients are getting a similar dose of baclofen no matter what the level their kidney function is,"Dr Garg told a news portal. Adding, "We also found that the risk for hospitalisation for severe confusion was higher amongst patients who received doses that were higher versus doses that were lower."
Researchers hope the findings bring more awareness about the side-effects of the drug so that physicians can make an informed decision before prescribing the drug to patients, especially those living with kidney disease.
"This study shows quite clearly the potential harm of this drug. With this new information, prescribers should reconsider risk-benefit and should be quite cautious before they prescribe this drug. When they believe the drug is indicated, a low dose should be considered, and patients and their families should be warned about what to look out for in terms of side effects," the authors of the study stated.
The study's findings were presented at the American Society of Nephrology meeting in Washington and published in the journal American Medical Association.
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