A handful of commonly prescribed medicines may put elderly patients at risk of an emergency hospital visit, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers reported on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Nearly 100,000 elderly Americans are hospitalized for adverse drug events each year, the CDC found. Just four blood thinners and diabetes medications sent more than two-thirds of those patients to the emergency room.
“These data suggest that focusing safety initiatives on a few medicines that commonly cause serious, measurable harms can improve care for many older Americans,” Dan Budnitz, director of the CDC’s Medication Safety Program, said in a statement.
“Doctors and patients should continue to use these medications but remember to work together to safely manage them.”
Data was culled from the CDC’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which surveyed 58 nationally representative hospitals between 2007 and 2009.
Emergency hospitalizations typically occur when patients overdose on a drug or take a prescribed amount that has a greater effect than was intended, CDC researchers found. The oldest patients—those 80 and older—accounted for almost half of the hospitalizations.
Drugs identified as high-risk for elderly patients were rarely linked to emergency hospitalizations, CDC researchers noted. Rather, the majority of hospitalizations were linked to four medications that treat common ailments, especially blood thinners.
Forty-six percent of hospitalizations involved medicines used to prevent blood clots; a single anticoagulant, warfarin, was responsible for one-third of hospitalizations, the report found. Another 25 percent involved diabetes medications, either insulin injections or medicines taken by mouth.
“We are working across the federal government to address common preventable adverse drug events through medication management, care transition programs, and other initiatives,” said Patrick Conway, chief medical officer of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in a statement.
Avoiding this type of hospitalization will improve patient care and lower costs at the same time, Conway noted.