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Diabetic Drugs Are Leading To Hospital Trips

According to a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine, two of the four drugs most likely to result in hospitalization among the elderly are those used to treat diabetes.


Dr.  Dan Budnitz M.D., who directs the Medication Safety Program at the Center for Disease Control, led a two-year study of nearly sixty hospitals around the U.S. The study showed that a quarter of emergency room visits by people over 65 were due to complications or overdoses of either insulin or oral diabetes medications. The remainder were caused by blood-thinning and anti-clotting medications, including Warfarin, clopidogrel and even simple aspirin, accounting for 46% of emergency treatments.


Interestingly, painkillers – normally considered to be a major risk when it comes to emergency hospitalizations – did not account for a large percentage of these cases.


Why are diabetic drugs and insulin injections causing so many seniors to go to the emergency room? It doesn't actually have anything to do with the side effects of these drugs, which can take months or even years to become apparent. What is significant however is the fact that forty percent of seniors are on an average of seven medications that are taken on a regular basis. Eighteen percent take as many as ten.


That is a lot to keep track of – and with all those different drugs, the chances of interactions resulting in "adverse advents" rises considerably.


With the "graying of America," as seniors come to make up a larger percentage of the U.S. population, this is likely to become more and more of an issue.




Budnitz, Daniel S. M.D. et. al. "Emergency Hospitalizations for Adverse Drug Events in Older Americans." New England Journal of Medicine, 24 November 2011.


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