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MED BRIEFS Hazards in the medicine cabinet

Medications that are considered unsafe for older people frequently are prescribed to patients over 65, researchers reported. The study, which examined prescription rates, found that 1 in 5 older patients received at least one unsafe drug.

Dr. Kevin A. Schulman of the Duke Clinical Research Institute, the lead author of the study, said that as the body ages, the way it reacts to medicine changes and the likelihood of severe side effects increases. In recent years, efforts to steer the drugs most likely to produce these side effects away from older patients have included the publication of lists of drugs deemed inappropriate for people over 65, Schulman said.

In the study, the researchers compared one of these lists with a database containing all prescriptions written in 1999 for 765,423 patients over 65 through a pharmaceutical benefits management company.

The study found that 21 percent of the patients had at least one drug on the list, and that half those prescriptions were for drugs considered to have the potential for serious adverse effects. He said safer alternatives often exist. Older patients might be able to avoid risks by discussing medications with their doctors.

Unexpected burns during an MRI

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A nicotine patch can help people cut down on smoking, but it also can make them smolder -- if they wear one into an MRI scanner.

The author of the article, Amy M. Karch, an assistant professor of clinical nursing at the University of Rochester, said many patches that deliver drugs through the skin had a foil backing meant to prevent leakage. The metal in the foil becomes a conductor for the energy generated by the magnets in the scanner, turning it into an electric current. The patches used for long-term contraceptive devices do not contain foil, she said.

Best bets

Sat. Sept. 25

Hormel Nature Center 8K Run, starts at 9 a.m. at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center in Austin. Registration: $15 at Overby Orthodontics at 700 First Ave. S.W. in Austin. Race day registration is 7:30 a.m. Divisions for all age groups. Proceeds benefit the nature center.

Moonlight Paddle at Chester Woods Park begins at 9:30 p.m. Bring your own canoe, kayak or paddleboat and gear. Meet at the boat ramp. Launch time: 10 p.m.

Next week

Columnist Jane E. Brody writes about how to put good bacteria to work.

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