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Medications can cause serious issues for elderly

Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

12-14-11

Dec. 14--DECATUR -- Each year, adverse reactions to medications cause approximately 100,000 emergency hospital visits for American adults 65 and older. The figure comes from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study found that a small group of diabetes medications and drugs to prevent blood clots were causing about two-thirds of the hospitalizations, according to a news release issued by the CDC. The information was collected between 2007 and 2009 by the centers' National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-Cooperative Adverse Drug Event Surveillance project.

"These data suggest that focusing safety initiatives on a few medicines that commonly cause serious, measurable harms can improve care for many older Americans," said Dr. Dan Budnitz, director of CDC's Medication Safety Program. "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."

Approximately 48 percent of the hospitalizations mentioned in the study occurred in those 80 and older, and two-thirds were caused by overdoses or in situations where patients might have taken the amount of medication as prescribed, but the drug caused more than the intended effect in the person's body.

Some of the drugs mentioned in the report were warfarin, a medication used to prevent blood clots, insulin, a substance used to control blood sugar in those with diabetes, oral diabetes medications and antiplatelet drugs, which inhibit platelet function to prevent clotting. Together, these medication types accounted for more than 70 percent of the hospitalizations.

National medication safety monitoring and initiatives will continue to be important, the CDC reported. And patients should work together with their physicians and pharmacists to gain a better understanding of the

medications they are on and how to manage them.

"Policies and improvement programs to promote safe use of medications that most commonly cause serious, measurable harms can increase patient safety and reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and costs at the same time," Dr. Patrick Conway, chief medical officer of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and director of CMS' office of Clinical Standards and Quality, was quoted as saying. "We are working across the federal government to address common preventable adverse drug events through medication management, care transition programs and other initiatives."

For more information about the centers' efforts to protect older adults from adverse medication events, visit www.cdc.gov/medicationsafety on the Web.

The Macon County Health Department has a medication management program for people of all ages to help ensure that people are taking their medications as directed, maintaining proper communication with physicians and pharmacies and understand the drugs and their effects.

[email protected] 421-6968

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