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Prescription Side Effects Causing More Hospitalizations

According to the American Medical Association, in an article on their Web site, painkillers are among the top medications sending patients to hospitals. Here are excerpts:

The number of hospitalizations due to medication side effects jumped by more than half between 2004 and 2008, says a federal report that heightened concerns about polypharmacy among an aging U.S. population.

Antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs, benzodiazepines, corticosteroids, insulin, and blood thinners and other cardiovascular drugs were among the leading causes of more than 2.7 million hospital stays and treat-and-release visits to emergency departments in 2008, said the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality report, released in April.

Opiates such as codeine and morphine were a principal culprit, implicated in 121,200 hospital stays and 44,300 ED visits. The latest confirmation of problems associated with painkillers came as the Obama administration launched an inter- agency attack on opioid misuse that a White House report dubbed “America’s prescription drug abuse crisis.”

Less than a quarter of the drug-related ED visits and less than 10% of inpatient stays were due to mistakes by physicians, pharmacists or patients. The rest were cases in which patients took prescribed medicines as ordered but had side effects severe enough to send them to a hospital.

Medication side effects were listed as the cause of 4.7% of all hospital stays and 0.8% of treat-and-release visits to the ED in 2008.

“This rise definitely outstrips the growth in the U.S. population — this is not just a population issue,” said Anne Elixhauser, PhD, lead author of the report and a senior research scientist at AHRQ. “We are trying to point out a significant and potentially increasing problem so that others with more detailed data can move forward to look at what’s going on here.”

The age of the population, not its size, may best explain the increase in drug-related hospital visits, said Sandra Schneider, MD, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians and an emergency physician at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y.

“The graying of America is clearly starting, and it’s only going to get worse. What we’re seeing is a lot more extremely sick people taking many, many medications,” she said.

Medication side effects were the cause of 4.7% of all hospital stays in 2008.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

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