Common Medications Send 700,000 to the Emergency Room Every Year

Is there a cure for the cure? A review published in the October 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has estimated that more than 700,000 patients each year require emergency-room visits due to complications with their medicinal intake. The study was a joint project by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The study concludes, “Adverse drug events among outpatients that lead to emergency department visits are an important cause of morbidity in the United States.” The researchers based their results on active surveillance from January 1, 2004, through December 31, 2005, through the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System–Cooperative Adverse Drug Event Surveillance project. The study also notes that “individuals aged 65 years or older were more likely than younger individuals to sustain adverse drug events and more likely to require hospitalization”–more than two times as likely.

The biggest culprits include the popular drugs warfarin (blood thinner), insulin (diabetes treatment), digoxin (heart medication), and amoxicillin (antibiotic). The most significant cause of medication-related ailments is allergic reaction, followed closely by unintentional overdose.

The study strongly suggests the need for improved communication between doctors and their patients, in addition to more consistent monitoring of results. Consumers should make sure they clearly understand the dosage information provided before taking any medication. Doctors should also take time to explain potential side effects or allergies and their symptoms, as well as the risks of interaction with certain types of food, exercise, supplements, and other drugs.

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