Ethics in Medicine

Most Hospitalizations in Elders due to Four Drugs

Kristen Sparrow • December 02, 2011

In the “First Do No Harm” file we have this article outlining the dangers inherent in certain medications. All of these meds have been around a long time, and all are “tried and true.” Is it maybe time to review their safety or risk benefit ratio? I would take issue with them lumping aspiring with other anti-platelet medications, but that’s just my hunch, not based on data. Information on my practice here.

Four Drugs Cause Most Hospitalizations in Older Adults

Blood thinners and diabetes drugs cause most emergency hospital visits for drug reactions among people over 65 in the United States, a new study shows.

Just four medications or medication groups — used alone or together — were responsible for two-thirds of emergency hospitalizations among older Americans, according to the report. At the top of the list was warfarin, also known as Coumadin, a blood thinner. It accounted for 33 percent of emergency hospital visits. Insulin injections were next on the list, accounting for 14 percent of emergency visits.

Aspirin, clopidogrel and other antiplatelet drugs that help prevent blood clotting were involved in 13 percent of emergency visits. And just behind them were diabetes drugs taken by mouth, called oral hypoglycemic agents, which were implicated in 11 percent of hospitalizations.

All these drugs are commonly prescribed to older adults, and they can be hard to use correctly. One problem they share is a narrow therapeutic index, meaning the line between an effective dose and a hazardous one is thin. The sheer extent to which they are involved in hospitalizations among older people, though, was not expected, said Dr. Dan Budnitz, an author of the study and director of the Medication Safety Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…