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Over One in Six Older ER Patients Wrongly Given Potentially Harmful Drugs

Friday, April 16, 2010 by: Tony Isaacs
Tags: hospitals, medical errors, health news

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(NaturalNews) A recent study at the University of Michigan has found that over 1 in 6 older patients receive the wrong medications in emergency room visits. According to the study, which was published in Academic Emergency Medicine, nearly 19.5 million patients age 65 and older received one or more potentially inappropriate medications (PIMs) in emergency visits from 2000-2006.

Researchers found that doctors are not aware of the right drugs and dosages to give to older patients. As a result, the risks involved outweigh any benefits of the drugs. The researchers also noted that since the study did not explore the possibility of medication interactions, it is possible that the potential harm by medications is even greater than their study suggests.

Certain pain relievers and antihistamines are among most common drugs used in emergency visits, in spite of known risks from those drugs to patients over age 65. The study found that 10 medications accounted for 86.5 percent of PIMs used in emergency room treatment. The five most common ones used were promethazine, ketorolac, propoxyphene, meperidine, and diphenhydramine. Promethazine and ketorolac accounted for nearly 40% of the total.

"There are certain medications that probably are not good to give to older adults because the potential benefits are outweighed by potential problems," said lead study author, William J. Meurer, assistant professor at the U-M Departments of Emergency Medicine and Neurology.

In the study, researchers looked at a large nationwide sample of approximately 470,000 emergency department and outpatient clinic visits. The study used data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, to see how many patients aged 65 and older were prescribed potentially inappropriate medications. The results of the study were then applied to the national estimate of about 1.5 billion total visits to estimate the total number of patients who received potentially inappropriate drugs.

There were substantial variations found between different regions as well as hospital type (teaching vs. non-teaching). PIMs were less likely to occur in emergency room visits to hospitals in the Northeast and twice as likely in the rest of the country. Receiving a potentially inappropriate medication was more likely to occur at for-profit hospitals.

Meurer suggested that greater efforts are needed to educate doctors about the suitability of medications for older patients. As published at the University of Michigan newsroom, Meurer offered the following advice to patients to help insure they do not receive inappropriate medications:

* Make sure you talk to your primary care physician, either during or after your ED visit.
* Know what medications and supplements you are taking and make sure the nurses and doctors at the ED know.
* Talk to the ED doctors and nurses about how long the medicines they have given you will affect you.
* Ask for a list of all medications that you received while at the ED before you leave the ED for home or go to a bed in the hospital. The list should include information on the possible side effects of those medicines.
* If you leave the ED and then have an adverse event caused by medication, contact your physician immediately or go back to the emergency department.
* Be proactive with your pharmacy and make sure you understand what you are taking.

The full study report can be found at:

http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/f...

Sources included:

http://www.wddty.com/17-per-cent-of-the-over...
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03...

About the author

Tony Isaacs, is a natural health author, advocate and researcher who hosts The Best Years in Life website for those who wish to avoid prescription drugs and mainstream managed illness and live longer, healthier and happier lives naturally. Mr. Isaacs is the author of books and articles about natural health, longevity and beating cancer including "Cancer's Natural Enemy" and is working on a major book project due to be published later this year. He is also a contributing author for the worldwide advocacy group "S.A N.E.Vax. Inc" which endeavors to uncover the truth about HPV vaccine dangers.
Mr. Isaacs is currently residing in scenic East Texas and frequently commutes to the even more scenic Texas hill country near Austin and San Antonio to give lectures and health seminars. He also hosts the CureZone "Ask Tony Isaacs - featuring Luella May" forum as well as the Yahoo Health Group "Oleander Soup" and he serves as a consultant to the "Utopia Silver Supplement Company".

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