Study reveals the four drugs that most often land seniors in the emergency room
SUN CITY, Ariz. (Dec. 20, 2011) – Two-thirds of emergency hospitalizations for adverse drug events among seniors are attributable to four commonly prescribed medications, according to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The study, conducted from 2007 to 2009 by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), found that of the nearly 100,000 seniors who experienced an emergency hospital admission for adverse drug events, 67 percent resulted from the blood thinner warfarin, insulin, antiplatelet drugs – such as aspirin and Plavix – or oral diabetes medications.
Hites Patel, MD, emergency medicine physician at Banner Boswell Medical Center, said the study underscores the importance of knowing what medications you’re taking and how to take them.
“It’s imperative to understand how to take each medication, how often to take it and how long you’ll be taking it for,” said Dr. Patel. “One of the most important things you can do to avoid a serious drug event is to have a good medication list. Keep it in your wallet or purse. Share it with every physician you go to and get it updated frequently.”
The CDC noted symptoms associated with hospitalization included bleeding—especially with blood thinning or antiplatelet drugs—and confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures, which were associated insulin and other diabetes medications.
Adverse drug events can occur from a variety of situations, said Dr. Patel. “Sometimes patients take a dose of medication, forget that they’ve taken it and take another dose. Also, couples may have identical medication boxes that get mixed up, causing the patient to take the spouse’s medication.”
Christi Jen, PharmD, BCPS, a clinical pharmacist at Banner Boswell who specializes in Emergency Medicine, regularly speaks in the community about medication issues. In addition to keeping an updated medication list that includes over-the-counter medications, supplements and vitamins, Jen offers several other tips to reduce the risk of experiencing an adverse drug effect.
At every visit to your doctor:
- Always ask your doctor what the new medications are and why you’re taking them.
- Review the drug interactions with any new medications prescribed and your current medication list. It’s important to tell your doctor about any vitamins, supplements or other over-the counter medications you’re taking, as they often have interactions with prescription drugs. For example, garlic, ginger, ginseng, and ginkgo biloba all increase the risk for bleeding in patients taking Coumadin (warfarin).
When you visit the pharmacy, ask the pharmacist:
- How and when to take the medication
- Whether to take the medication on an empty stomach or with food
- What to do if you are unable to swallow the medication
- What to do if you miss a dose
- If there are drug interactions with both prescription and OTC medications
- How to store the medication
Banner Boswell Medical Center, located at 10401 W. Thunderbird Boulevard in Sun City, offers a comprehensive Vial of Life, which contains easy-to-use forms to allow users to document their medical history, current medications, allergies, doctor's name and more. Vials of Life are available at every visitor information desk throughout the nonprofit hospital.
About Banner Boswell Medical Center
Banner Boswell Medical Center is a 501-bed campus specializing in neurosciences, heart care, cancer care, stroke care, orthopedics, acute rehabilitation, skilled nursing and emergency care. Supporting Banner Boswell’s mission of excellent patient care is the Sun Health Foundation, which encourages charitable giving to support the hospital. Banner Boswell is part of nonprofit Banner Health. For more information, visit www.BannerHealth.com/Boswell.
Lisa Guinn (623) 832-5704