In a new study, researchers found that many people with very low kidney function were admitted to the hospital with severe confusion and other cognitive-related symptoms a few days after being prescribed a common muscle relaxant.
The team found that patients with kidney dysfunction who have prescribed a high dose of the drug baclofen were more likely to be admitted to hospital for disorientation and confusion, than those who weren’t prescribed the drug.
The research was conducted by a team from Western University and Lawson Health Research Institute.
The drug baclofen is commonly prescribed for muscle spasms and muscle pain, and is also prescribed off-label for alcoholism, gastro-esophageal reflex disease, and trigeminal neuralgia.
It is widely prescribed because it has not previously been associated with serious side-effects.
More than eight million prescriptions for the drug were handed out in the United States in 2016.
Despite numerous case reports linking baclofen with cognitive symptoms in patients with kidney disease, this is the first clinical study to look at the association between the two.
The team looked at people with low kidney function (30% or less) who received a high dose of baclofen from their prescriber.
They looked at a group of approximately 16,000 people in Ontario with kidney disease who started a new dose of baclofen between 2007 and 2018.
They found approximately one in 25 were being admitted to hospital with severe confusion, typically over the next few days.
These are patients who had previously been very oriented, and they were suddenly extremely confused and the team found that they had recently started the drug baclofen.
The authors hope this study will better inform physicians and pharmacists about the use of baclofen for patients with kidney disease.
The authors also say patients should not stop their prescription medications without talking to their doctor.
The lead author of the study is Dr. Amit Garg, Professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.
The study is published in JAMA.
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