NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

ADVERSE RX

October 19, 2006

Adverse reactions to some of the most commonly prescribed medications result in more than 700,000 emergency department (ED) visits annually, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers examined data from the first two years -- 2004 to 2005 -- of a national surveillance project on outpatient medication safety developed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  They found:

  • Reactions to medications accounted for at least 701,547 ED visits
  • The most common adverse reactions among ED patients involved accidental overdoses and allergic reactions
  • About 17 percent of ED patients who experienced adverse reactions to medications required hospitalization. 

The authors also found:

  • The medications most commonly involved in adverse reactions among ED patients where insulins used to treat diabetes, pain medications that contain opiates and blood thinners.
  • The medications most commonly involved in allergic reactions among ED patients were antibiotics that contain amoxicillin and antihistamines and other over-the-counter cold treatments.
  • Patients ages 65 and older who experienced adverse reactions to medications were twice as likely to visit EDs and seven times as likely to require hospitalization as younger patients.

"These are estimates just of the patients who make it" to the ED, CDC epidemiologist Daniel Budnitz said, adding, "We don't even attempt to estimate the number of patients who never make it to treatment."

Source: Daniel S. Budnitz et al., "National Surveillance of Emergency Department Visits for Outpatient Adverse Drug Events," Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 296, No. 15, October 18, 2006.

For JAMA Abstract:

http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/296/15/1858?maxtoshow=

 

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