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Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Most ER Visits by Seniors Linked to 4 Common Medications

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A study conducted by researchers of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that most emergency room visits of senior citizens may be traced to four common medications. The results of the study indicated that the medications, which consist of two diabetes and two blood-thinning agents, account for two-thirds of drug-related emergency hospitalizations.

Dr. Daniel Budnitz, director of the medication safety program of the CDC and lead author of the study, gave the following statement: “Of the thousands of medications available to older patients, a small group of blood thinners and diabetes medications caused a high proportion of emergency hospitalizations for adverse drug events among elderly Americans.”

In contrast, drugs that had been designated as “high risk” accounted for only 1.2 percent of hospitalizations.

The study analyzed data retrieved from a nationally representative database, from which CDC researchers were able to identify more than 5,000 cases of “drug-related adverse events” among Americans aged 65 and older, from 2007 to 2009.

The results of the analysis indicated that nearly half of the hospitalizations, at 48 percent, occurred among Americans aged 80 years old and above, while 66 percent were due to unintentional overdose.

The four medications, used alone or together, are the blood thinning medication warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven); insulin; antiplatelet drugs such as aspirin and clopidogrel (Plavix); and oral hypoglycemic agents.

Dr. Budnitz shared: “These are often critical medicines for patients’ health. Patients who are on these medicines should tell all their doctors what they are taking and work together with their doctors and pharmacist to make sure that they are taking these medicines correctly.”

The study was published in the November 24 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.