The Top 4 Drugs That Can Land You in the Emergency Room

We could save significantly on health care use by cutting back on the adverse drug events caused by blood thinners and diabetes meds.

Shutterstock

A few medications cause most of the problems that lead to emergency hospitalization in older patients, according to a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Adverse drug events (ADEs) leading to emergency department (ED) visits or emergency hospitalizations are particularly common in older patients. By identifying these high risk drugs, hospitalizations can be prevented.

Investigators used 2007-2009 data from a nationally representative sample of 58 hospitals to examine 100,000 hospitalizations due to major drug side effects.

The nearly 100,000 annual emergency hospitalizations caused by ADEs in older patients represent an opportunity to prevent patient harm and lower health care costs.

Almost half (48 percent) of ADE-related hospitalizations among elders occurred in patients older than 80. Four medications accounted for more than two-thirds of these ADE-related emergency hospitalizations: warfarin (a blood thinner to prevent clots), insulins (for diabetes), oral antiplatelet agents (for heart attack prevention), and oral hypoglycemic agents (for diabetes).

The nearly 100,000 annual emergency hospitalizations caused by ADEs in older patients represent an opportunity to prevent patient harm and lower health care use and costs. How can we help our loved ones with their medications?

Make sure an up-to-date card is kept by each person that documents the entire medication list, including vitamins, herbs, and OTC medicines. The list should be kept in their wallet. Some patients see multiple doctors. A handy, up-to-date medication list shown to a physician can save a life. Most critical errors in medicine are related to either the physician or the patient not having a current medication list. As a result, more drug adverse side effects and interactions occur.

Alert your loved ones that blood thinners and diabetic medicines account for 50 percent of hospitalizations due to ADEs. Blood thinners and diabetes medications can regularly be monitored by the primary care physician. Such monitoring should be encouraged to prevent emergency room visits and subsequent hospitalizations due to excessive bleeding or very low blood sugars.

Encouraging medication compliance can lengthen a person's lifespan. Too many times patients stop their medications due to a comment made by a friend or a study that was read on the Internet. Often the doctor is not informed and the patient may not understand the positive effects of the medication. Communication with the physician is essential.

Keeping a medication list, making sure that each medicine is taken, and monitoring high-risk medications should be easy, yet tens of thousands die each year in the U.S. as a result of such mistakes.

Presented by

Evan Lipkis is a physician, professor, and author. He practices internal medicine at Glenbrook Hospital and served as the medical consultant for WGN radio. He is also an editorial advisor for Prescriber's Letter, a newsletter for physicians.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Health

Just In