Four Commonly Used Medicines Cause Most Drug Related Hospitalizations for Older Adults

Study shows four medication groups are responsible for two thirds of emergency hospitalizations for patients over 65. The New York Times reports the drugs are often prescribed, but difficult to use correctly. The bad drug reactions are often due to overdose when the amount of medication prescribed is unintentionally too powerful. 100,000 people over 65 end up in the emergency room each year due to bad drug reactions.

Warfarin or Coumadin, a blood thinner, is responsible for one third of prescription drug mistakes that send patients to the emergency room. An additional 13% of hospitalizations are caused by aspirin and other drugs that help prevent blood clots. Wrong doses of injected insulin account for 14% and oral diabetes drugs 11% of ER visits.

According to the Times, these drugs are all difficult to use and may require blood testing to find an accurate dose. With warfarin, there is a very small difference between a therapeutic dose and a dangerous one. With insulin, the problem is controlling blood sugar. As a result it is difficult for doctors to find the right balance of insulin and other diabetes drugs.

The study uncovered that while these drugs are responsible for most of the drug related hospitalizations, they are not considered “high risk” medications. Because they are necessary, but can obviously be dangerous, doctors must be hyper vigilant when prescribing these medications to their patients. By carefully monitoring patients’ reactions, they may be able to reduce the number of prescription errors.


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