Side effects send 701,547 americans to hospital each year

Side effects send 701,547 americans to hospital each year

701,547 Americans suffer such side effects from prescription medications, OTC drugs and herbal supplements that they have to go to hospital emergency rooms, according to a study carried out by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

You can read about this study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The older a patient is, the higher is his/her risk of ending up in an emergency room because of undesirable side-effects. If you are over 65 you have two times the risk, compared to a younger person. If you are over 65 your risk of being admitted to hospital is seven times great than a younger person, said the researchers.

The study found that:

-- Insulins, painkillers containing opiates, and blood thinners were the medications that sent most people to emergency rooms

-- Other drugs that triggered emergency room visits were antibiotics containing amoxicillin, antihistamines and OTC medications for colds

-- Getting the dose right is crucial. A higher dose than the ideal is more dangerous than a lower dose.

Americans, along with citizens of most other developed nations, are great consumers of medications. In 2004, 82% of Americans took at least one prescription drug, or OTC drug, herbal medication or dietary supplement - 30% took five or more.

63 hospitals were examined in this study over a two-year-period.. A total of 21,298 undesirable side effects were reported (people treated for them in emergency rooms). The researchers concluded that this figure would be translated to 701,547 cases nationally each year.

The most common side-effects reported were:

-- Skin rashes

-- gastro-intestinal problems

-- dizziness and/or confusion

"National Surveillance of Emergency Department Visits for Outpatient Adverse Drug Events"

Daniel S. Budnitz, MD, MPH; Daniel A. Pollock, MD; Kelly N. Weidenbach, MPH; Aaron B. Mendelsohn, PhD, MPH; Thomas J. Schroeder, MS; Joseph L. Annest, PhD

JAMA. 2006;296:1858-1866.

Click here to see abstract online


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Section Issues On Medicine: Medical practice