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Top Four Drug Types That Sent Seniors to the Hospital


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January 20, 2016

With adverse drug events landing nearly 100,000 seniors in the hospital each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are all medications equal in terms of this potential risk?

Apparently not. Of the thousands of medications available to patients, a small group of blood thinners and diabetes medications caused two-thirds of the emergency hospitalizations, noted a CDC report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“These data suggest that focusing safety initiatives on a few medicines that commonly cause serious, measurable harms can improve care for many older Americans,” said Dan Budnitz, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s Medication Safety Program.

“Blood thinners and diabetes medicines often require blood testing and dosing changes, but these are critical medicines for older adults with certain medical conditions. Doctors and patients should continue to use these medications but remember to work together to safely manage them.”

Almost half (48.1 percent) of these hospitalizations occur among adults aged 80 years or older, and two-thirds (65.7 percent) of the hospitalizations were due to overdoses, or to situations in which patients may have taken the prescribed amount of medication, but the drug had more than the intended effect on the patient′s body.

Four Drugs Whose Usage Should be Monitored Closely by Doctors

The following four medications, used alone or together, accounted for two-thirds of the emergency hospitalizations mentioned above:

  1. Warfarin—33 percent, or 33,171 emergency hospitalizations, involved warfarin, a medication used to prevent blood clots.

  2. Insulin—14 percent involved insulins. Insulin injections are used to control blood sugar in people who have diabetes.

  3. Antiplatelet drugs—13 percent involved antiplatelet drugs, such as aspirin or clopidogrel, which prevent small clotting cells (platelets) from clumping together to start a clot.

  4. Oral hypoglycemic agents—11 percent involved these diabetes medications that are taken by mouth and can cause blood sugars to go too low.

These medications are lifesavers. However, if the senior loved ones in your life are taking any of these medications, be sure they are regularly monitoring their medication regimen with their doctors.

For more information about any of these drugs, consult your senior loved one’s physician. A prescription for any of these drugs should not be discontinued without first talking with the doctor who issued the prescription. Learn more about the best ways to help avoid potential adverse drug reactions.

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