New Research on Drug-Related Hospitalizations Highlights Importance of Safe Medication for Seniors

New research suggests that four drugs are responsible for a majority of drug-related hospitalizations in older adults. The Centers for Disease control estimates that nearly 100,000 hospitalizations every year are due to adverse drug events.

Four medications, when used alone or together, caused a majority of the hospitalizations:

  1. The blood thinner Warfarin (brand names Coumadin and Jantoven) was involved in 33 percent of the hospitalizations.
  2. Insulin, an injectable blood-sugar control drug used by diabetics, was involved in 14 percent of the hospitalizations.
  3. Anti-platelet drugs (like aspirin) that are used to prevent blood clots were involved in 13 percent of the hospitalizations.
  4. Oral hypoglycemic agents, which are also a drug for diabetics, account for 11 percent of the hospitalizations.

These data highlight the importance of following the directions of prescribed medications and increasing communication with health care providers.

Tips For Staying Safe

Whenever you’re prescribed a new medication, it is important to remind your doctor of other medicines that you’re on so that they can be mindful of any possible interactions between the medications. Also, check with the pharmacy and let them know all of the medications that you are on.

This is especially important if you have prescriptions at multiple pharmacies. Ask your pharmacist about any known interactions between the drugs and whether there are other medications, vitamins or even certain foods that you should be cautious of while on the medication. Be sure to read through the medication fact sheet given to you by the pharmacy; it will often contain specific information about how the drug should be taken and which other medications or vitamins are not compatible with the drug. Also, make a note of what the serious side effects are with the drugs and what warning signs you should look out for in case of an adverse event.

If you have trouble remembering whether you have taken your medication, or which medication you have to take, simplify the process for yourself by using a pill organizer. If you’re a caregiver for an older adult, talk about this process with them and bring them a pill organizer to use. Keeping track of daily medications and making sure that proper doses are used can greatly increase your safety. Also, it is important to never discontinue or decrease use of any medication without talking to your doctor.

Being an active monitor of your own health is one of the best ways to stay safe and informed.

If you take multiple prescription drugs, what tips do you have for safely medicating?

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