Study shows three drugs cause one-third of senior emergency room visits

ATLANTA Three drugs are responsible for thirty percent of U.S. emergency room visits made by senior citizens, a new study shows.

Researchers found that from 2004 to 2005, three medications: blood thinner warfarin, insulin and digoxin caused close to 58,000 emergency room visits a year in those 65 and older. Dr. Daniel Budnitz, a medical officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Study and the study’s lead author, said that the determining the correct dosage that should be provided to patients remains a challenge.

Budnitz and his colleagues decided to conduct the study in order to determine the danger posed to senor citizens by a long list of drugs that have been deemed “potentially inappropriate” for use in the elderly.

The study findings, which discuss the surveys of emergency visits during the one-year period, are published in the Dec. 4 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Warfarin, often prescribed to heart patients, prevents blood clots by thinning the blood, but can cause excessive bleeding if the blood becomes too thin. Insulin treats diabetes but can sometimes cause blood sugar levels to drop to dangerous levels. Digoxin, a long-used drug, can cause a variety of problems, like nausea and erratic heartbeats. Doctors can monitor the levels of all three drugs with blood tests, Budnitz said.

The study results are “a reminder that doctors and patients need to work on doing the best job we can managing these medicines,” Budnitz said. “The answer isn’t to take away medications.”

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