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To Your Health: NLM update Transcript

Prescription drug side effects impact emergency services: 01/23/2017

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health - a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM - that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

The burden of prescription drug side effects on U.S. emergency rooms may be more significant than previously estimated, finds a recent study and accompanying editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study estimates there were four emergency department visits related to prescription drug side effects per 1000 people in the U.S. in 2013-14. Among the emergency department visits for prescription drug side effects, about 27 percent resulted in additional hospitalization.

The study's six authors found adults aged 65 or older accounted for an estimated 35 percent of emergency room visits for prescription medication side effects (also called adverse drug events). Among this senior population, the study reports about 44 percent were hospitalized, which was the most among all age groups.

Overall, the study adds there were an estimated 1.3 million emergency department visits for prescription drug side effects in the U.S. in 2013-14, which was about a ten percent increase since the last U.S. national study in 2005-2006.

Among adults, the findings suggest the majority of emergency department visits were for opioids, anticoagulants, antibiotics, as well as medications for diabetes. Among children, most prescription-drug generated emergency department visits were for antibiotics and neuropsychiatric medications.

The study's findings are derived from a nationally representative sample of 58 emergency departments that participated in an adverse drug event surveillance project (that generated about 43,000 cases) in 2013-14.

In trying to contextualize their sobering findings, the authors noted that more than ten percent of Americans are prescribed five or more drugs at one time. The authors continue (and we quote): "patients in ambulatory care and some postacute care settings can have complex medication regiments, at times prescribed by multiple clinicians, with far less monitoring compared with hospitalized patients' (end of quote).

In an editorial that accompanied the study, its three authors interpret the findings to suggest a need for more transparency and coordination among different physicians when they provide patient prescriptions. Currently, the editorial's authors suggest for multiple medications that may cause inadvertent side effects (and we quote) 'when everyone is responsible no one is responsible' (end of quote).

The editorial's authors suggest significantly more coordination among physicians and other health care professionals to improve the safety of starting, monitoring, and discontinuing medications.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration provides a website about drug interactions in the 'start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's drug reactions health topic page.

A handout on taking multiple medications safely is provided within the 'patient handout' section of MedlinePlus.gov's drug reactions health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov's drug reactions health topic page also provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. Links to relevant clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available within the 'clinical trials' section. You can sign up to receive updates about drug reactions as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

The information provided about individual medications within MedlinePlus.gov's drugs and supplements section also describes known adverse interactions with other medications.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's drug reactions health topic page, please type 'drug reactions' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'drug reactions (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus.gov also has a health topic page devoted to medication errors and drug safety.

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It was nice to be with you and happy new year! Please join us here next week and here's to your health!