Medication side effects common cause of ER visits

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HARTFORD – In a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, medication adverse events were shown to be a common cause of emergency room visits in the United States.

Researchers analyzed data from 58 emergency rooms in the U.S. and not only are 4 in 1,000 trips to the emergency room due to prescription drugs, but 27 percent resulted in hospitalizations.

Not surprisingly, children and seniors had the greatest risks with 44 percent of seniors going to the emergency room getting hospitalized for adverse events. For children under 19 years of age, antibiotics caused the most emergency room visits and this is predominantly due to allergies causing severe rashes, hives, and trouble breathing. Those over the age of 65 years were at greatest risk from anticoagulants, diabetes medications and opioids.

For children, the most important thing to remember is to avoid unnecessary antibiotic use. If your child has a viral infection and are asking for antibiotics, you might not only be increasing bacterial resistance in the country, but also putting your child at risk.

For seniors, try non-opioid therapies wherever possible, and use opioids at the lowest effective dose, and for the shortest period of time you can. Anticoagulants and antidiabetic medications are crucial for many seniors by preventing strokes, blindness, and heart and kidney issues but they can be dangerous. They are also sometimes very tricky to use with doses being adjusted based on blood tests. When you are told how to take your medication by your doctor or pharmacist, repeat it back to them in your own words so they can hear what you heard and can assess whether it was what they intended. This “repeat back method “ is very effective in preventing miscommunication. When you asked if you would like medication counseling from your pharmacist, invest the extra three minutes and hear what they have to say. If you or a loved one gets confused when you have to adjust your warfarin doses, there are newer anticoagulant options with only a single dose that doesn’t need to be adjusted which might work well. Similarly, if you or a loved one have trouble seeing well enough to accurately draw up your own insulin, there are a number of insulin products that have easy to adjust pens, pre-mixed products, or other technology to help avoid mistakes.

 – Dr. Michael White of the UConn School of Pharmacy