Medication Errors Cause Frequent Emergency Hospitalizations of Seniors

Adverse drug effects are responsible for almost 100,000 emergency hospitalizations of US adults over 65, according to a recent New England Journal of Medicine study. These preventable medication errors are most common with four types of medications in particular.

Details of Study

Injury often resulted from overdose of blood thinner or diabetes medications. Top offenders were:

  • Warfarin: a blood thinner used to prevent clots
  • Insulin: a medication used in diabetic patients
  • Antiplatelet drugs: includes aspirin and clopidogrel, used to prevent pieces of blood cells from clumping to cause clots
  • Oral hypoglycemic agents or diabetic medications taken by mouth instead of injection

Over two-thirds of the reported emergency hospitalizations were linked to these medications, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC).

A portion of overdoses were linked to the drug having more than the intended effect on the patient’s body. Critical medications for seniors like blood thinners and diabetes medicines require a more involved management plan. Patients taking these drugs frequently require blood testing followed by dosing adjustments. If a proper medication management plan isn’t developed patients may experience adverse drug effects.

Prevention Measures

The findings call for more education focused on these categories of medications. The director of the CDC’s Medication Safety Program explained, “These data suggest that focusing safety initiatives on a few medicines that commonly cause serious, measurable harms can improve care for many older Americans.”

Until such safety initiatives are in place, however, it is important for the elderly taking these medications to be extra vigilant.