Pharmaceutical

Four drugs send most elderly patients to the hospital

Nearly 100,000 hospitalizations every year are related to adverse drug reactions and unintentional overdoses, and nearly half of those hospitalized are adults 80 years of age or older, according to a study published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers say the major culprits are four drugs – warfarin, oral antiplatelet medications such as aspirin, insulins, and oral hypoglycemic agents used to treat diabetes. The study also pointed out that better management of antithrombotic and anti-diabetic drugs could reduce the number of emergency admissions by thousands.

The study identified a small group of blood thinners, such as warfarin, and diabetes medications as the cause of the highest proportion of emergency hospitalizations for adverse drug events among the elderly. Both these medications often require blood testing and dosing changes, but are vital for older adults with certain medical conditions.

The study says that alleviating the problem may be as simple as focusing on safety initiatives for populations that require these medications.

Patients can minimize their risks of emergency intervention by reviewing the prescription label with their pharmacist, reporting back to their doctors for scheduled blood tests, and by not taking other medications without first discussing it with their doctors.

Elderly patients taking blood thinners or their caregivers should report to a doctor any signs of bruising or bleeding, which could be a sign that dosing needs to be adjusted. Delaying could cause more serious problems and lead to emergency hospitalizations.

Source: The State Column