A Pill too Much

Losing track of pills; © PixelQuelle.de

Outpatient use of drug therapies in the United States is common. In 2004, 82 percent of the U.S. population reported using at least 1 prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, or dietary supplement in the previous week and 30 percent reported using 5 or more of these drugs.

Over a 2-year study period, 21,298 adverse drug event cases were reported. "Based on data from a nationally representative surveillance system, we estimate that more than 700,000 patients were treated for ADEs in U.S. emergency departments annually in 2004 and 2005, and 1 of every 6 required subsequent hospital admission, transfer to another health care facility, or emergency department observation admission. Individuals aged 65 years or older were more than twice as likely to be treated in emergency departments for an ADE and nearly 7 times as likely to require hospitalization as individuals younger than 65 years. Among all patients who were hospitalized, most ADEs were due to unintentional overdoses and two-thirds of these were due to toxicity from a relatively small set of drugs for which regular monitoring is commonly required to prevent acute toxicity. Sixteen of the 18 drugs most commonly causing ADEs have been in clinical use for more than 20 years," the authors Daniel S. Budnitz, M.D., M.P.H., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues write in their study.

Adverse drug events accounted for 2.5 percent of estimated emergency department visits for all unintentional injuries and 6.7 percent of those leading to hospitalization, and also accounted for 0.6 percent of estimated emergency department visits for all causes.

“The finding that individuals aged 65 years or older (12 percent of the U.S. population) accounted for one-quarter of ADEs overall and half of adverse events requiring hospitalization highlights the importance of directing ADE prevention efforts to this vulnerable population. Emergency department visits for ADEs in this age group were nearly as common as those for motor vehicle occupant injuries," the authors write.

MEDICA.de; Source: American Medical Association