Bad Reactions to Meds Account for 1.1 Million Yearly ER Visits by Older Americans

Adults aged 50 and older comprise 51.5% of all emergency department visits each year due to adverse reactions to medications, according to a study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The report says 61.5% of the visits were made by seniors aged 65 or older.

Nearly 8 in 10 of the hospital visits by older patients involved adverse reactions to just one medication they had taken, the report said. Central nervous system drugs such as narcotic and non-narcotic pain relievers accounted for the largest share of these visits (24.3%). But cases included a broad range of medications, including central nervous system drugs, blood modifiers, cardiovascular system medications, metabolic disorder treatments, and psychotherapeutic drugs.

The report’s data is based on SAMHSA’s 2008 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN). DAWN is a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related hospital emergency department visits reported throughout the nation.

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Full report: Emergency Department Visits Involving Adverse Reactions to Medications among Older Adults (PDF format)

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