The 3 Medications Most Likely To Send Seniors To The ER

bottles of prescription pillsAn estimated one in 250 Americans lands in the hospital emergency department each year because of a medication-related reaction or problem, a new federal study finds.

Among adults 65 and older, the rate is about one in 100, the study authors said.

Remarkably, the medicines causing the most trouble haven’t changed in a decade, the researchers noted.

Blood thinners, diabetes medicines and antibiotics top the list. These drugs accounted for 47 percent of emergency department visits for adverse drug events in 2013 and 2014, according to the analysis.

Among older adults, blood thinners, diabetes medicines and opioid painkillers are implicated in nearly 60 percent of emergency department visits for adverse drug events.

“The same drugs are causing the most problems,” said study co-author Dr. Daniel Budnitz.

The study doesn’t tease out what went wrong. The reasons likely vary from one drug to the next, said Budnitz, director of the medication safety program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People on the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin), for example, must have their blood levels checked regularly due to the major risk of internal bleeding. Problems arise when there is insufficient monitoring or dose adjustment of these so-called anticoagulants, or when drug interactions occur, Budnitz explained.

Diabetic patients taking insulin run into trouble when their blood-sugar levels fall too low, he added. If they forget to eat or accidentally administer the wrong dose, they can pass out, fall and break a hip, he said.

“It’s hard, often, to do the right thing every single time,” Budnitz said.

While medication safety has improved in hospitals, reducing harm from the medicines people take outside of the hospital remains a challenge, the study authors noted.

Ninety percent of U.S. prescription spending occurs in outpatient settings, they said.

Older patients often have multiple health conditions requiring complex medication regimens prescribed by different clinicians. This makes them particularly vulnerable, the study suggests.

Illness such as diabetes and heart disease become more common with age and are treated with drugs commonly linked to…