Four Drugs Cause Most Hospitalizations Among Older Adults

A new federal report shows that blood thinners and diabetes medications are responsible for two-thirds of the emergency hospitalizations for people ages 65 and older.

Every year, nearly 100,000 adults ages 65 and older are hospitalized for adverse drug events, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. Four medications, used alone or together, accounted for two-thirds of emergency hospitalizations, according to a news release. The hospitalizations were due to overdoses or scenarios where the patient took the prescribed amount but the drug’s effects were too strong.

The report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine also showed:

  • 33 percent of emergency hospitalizations involved warfarin, a drug that prevents blood clots.
  • 14 percent involved insulin medications, which control blood sugar levels for people who have diabetes.
  • 13 percent involved antiplatelet drugs, including aspirin and clopidogrel, also used to prevent clots.
  • 11 percent involved oral diabetes medications.

The statistics suggest that focusing on using these medications safely could help many older Americans, said Dr. Dan Budnitz, director of the CDC’s Medication Safety Program, in the news release.

“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,” Budnitz said.

For their study, researchers analyzed data collected from 2007 to 2009 from a national sample of 58 hospitals. Nearly half of the hospitalizations involved adults ages 80 and older.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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