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Top Four Drug Types That Sent Seniors to the Hospital (Canada)

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With adverse drug events landing approximately 27,000 seniors in the hospital each year, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, are all medications equal in terms of this potential risk?

Apparently not. Of the thousands of medications available to patients, blood thinners, are the drug class most commonly associated with ADR-related hospitalizations among seniors. This is followed by chemotherapy drugs and opioids.

“While it is appropriate in many cases for people to be using these medications, it is important for seniors, their caregivers and health professionals to manage the associated risks,” says Michael Gaucher, Director of Pharmaceuticals and Health Workforce Information Services at CIHI. “The factors most often associated with hospitalization for adverse drug reactions are the number of drugs, age and being hospitalized in the previous year.”

In 2013, researchers at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences estimated that emergency department visits and hospital admissions due to adverse drug reactions among seniors in Canada cost an estimated $35.7 million.

Four Drugs Whose Usage Should be Monitored Closely by Doctors

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the following four medications, used alone or together, accounted for two-thirds of the nearly 100,000 emergency hospitalizations that take place a year in the U.S. due to adverse drug events:

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

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

  3. Antiplatelet drugs—13 per cent 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 per cent 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.

Last revised: February 10, 2016

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