Most Hospitalizations Among Seniors Due To Four Drug Types
November 26, 2011

Most Hospitalizations Among Seniors Due To Four Drug Types

Four types of drugs are responsible for the majority of hospitalizations of older Americans each year, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study has discovered.

Among U.S. residents aged 65 and older, there are a total of 100,000 drug-related emergency hospitalizations each year, and two-thirds of them result from the blood thinner warfarin, insulin, oral anti-platelets such as aspirin, and oral diabetes drugs, lead researcher and CDC Medication Safety Program Director Daniel S. Budnitz discovered, according to reports by WebMD and USA Today.

"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," Budnitz told Jenifer Goodwin of USA Today HealthDay on Friday.

Both blood thinners and diabetes medicines are critical drugs that can be lifesaving," he added in a separate interview with Kathleen Doheny of WebMD Health News, emphasizing that it was important to "pay attention" to the dosage, timing, and other factors related to those types of medications.

The CDC used a national, representative database, and identified more than 5,000 cases of drug-related adverse events in the 65-plus age group between 2007 and 2009, with 48% of those occurring in patients over the age of 80, Goodwin reported.

Of those hospitalizations, 66% were the result of accidental overdoses, USA Today added, while Doheny added that the CDC study reported that "high-risk medications," including narcotics, accounted for just 1% of those total hospitalizations.

The results of the study were published in the Nov. 24 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Budnitz's study discovered that 33% of the hospitalizations (33,171) involved the anti-clot medications warfarin, while 14% (13,854) involved insulin, 13% (13,263) involved oral anti-platelet drugs, including aspirin and clopidogrel, while 11% (10,656) involved oral hypoglycemic agents used to treat diabetes.

"These are important findings," Dr. Michael Steinman, an associate professor of medicine in the division of geriatrics at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), told Goodwin. "This study highlights a few key issues that are important for doctors and patients to be aware of. The first is that serious adverse reactions to drugs are common among older people, particularly among people over 80. But even those 65 and older are at substantial risk of having an adverse effect from their drugs."


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