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Four Drugs Cause Most Problems for Seniors

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A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that four medications cause the most adverse drug reactions resulting in hospitalization of seniors. According the CDC study and Medscape article, two thirds of the 100,000 hospitalizations of seniors each year are caused by Adverse Drug Reactions (ADR) involving anticoagulants and diabetic medications.

According to the CDC website, four medications, used alone or together, accounted for two–thirds of the emergency hospitalizations:
  • 33 percent, or 33,171 emergency hospitalizations, involved warfarin, a medication used to prevent blood clots.
  • 14 percent involved insulins.  Insulin injections are used to control blood sugar in people who have diabetes.
  • 13 percent involved antiplatelet drugs, such as aspirin or clopidogrel, which prevent platelets, or pieces of blood cells from clumping together to start a clot.
  • 11 percent involved diabetes medications that are taken by mouth, called oral hypoglycemic agents.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define an Adverse Drug Events (ADE’s) as a serious health problem, and have published the following Key Facts on Medication Safety:
It is estimated that:
  • 82% of American adults take at least one medication and 29% take five or more [1];
  • 700,000 emergency department visits and 120,000 hospitalizations are due to ADEs annually [2];
  • $3.5 billion is spent on extra medical costs of ADEs annually [3];
  • At least 40% of costs of ambulatory (non-hospital settings) ADEs are estimated to be preventable [3].
The numbers of adverse drug events will likely grow due to:
  • Development of new medications
  • Discovery of new uses for older medications
  • Aging American population
  • Increase in the use of medications for disease prevention
  • Increased coverage for prescription medications

For more on this topic, visit the CDC Medication Safety Program.

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