As Renaissance physician Paracelsus once said, “Poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.” Medication that can save lives can also cause harm if used incorrectly. Of all the medicines commonly used, four seem to be most often linked to an improper use serious enough to result in an emergency hospital visit, especially among the elderly.
In order to come to this conclusion, researchers analyzed data collected from 2007 to 2009 at 58 hospitals in the United States. They observed that nearly half of all hospitalizations due to adverse drug reactions occurred in individuals over the age of 65. About two-thirds of these cases were because of accidental overdoses.
Just four medications (or medication classes), commonly prescribed to older people, were responsible for 67 percent of emergency hospitalizations: warfarin (a blood thinner), antiplatelet drugs (to prevent blood clots), insulin injections and hypoglycemic agents (diabetes drugs taken orally). Contrary to what they had expected, the researchers noted that medications designated as “high risk” or “potentially inappropriate” for the elderly only accounted for about eight percent of all emergency hospitalizations.
If you take one of these medications, there’s no cause for alarm. When used correctly, they are safe and effective. However, it’s very important to never make your own changes to the dose you were prescribed. Accidental overdoses in the elderly are also sometimes as a result of memory loss. There are many ways to reduce these risks, such as the use of a pill dispenser. Speak to your pharmacist, who will be able to provide valuable advice.