Adverse drug reactions a major cause of unplanned hospitalizations of elderly veteransVeterans who are age 65 and older and taking multiple medications for various conditions are at risk of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) that can lead to unplanned hospitalizations. In fact, a new study reveals that 10 percent of unplanned hospitalizations among this group were related to ADRs. The study included a group of 678 veterans hospitalized directly from an ambulatory care setting for an unplanned admission. There were 70 ADRs involving 113 drugs in 68 hospitalizations. More than one-third (36.8 percent) of these hospitalizations were considered to be preventable. The researchers estimated that if they applied these findings to the population of more than 2.4 million veterans receiving care during the study period (2003-2006), as many as 8,000 hospitalizations would have been preventable.
Multiple medication use, also known as "polypharmacy," has been shown to be the most consistent and strongest predictor of ADRs in older adults. Overall, 44.8 percent of veterans took nine or more outpatient medications and 35.4 percent took five to eight. The authors suggest that their findings should be useful to highlight areas for future intervention (e.g., reducing inappropriate prescribing by using computerized physician order entry with decision support) to reduce preventable health care use. This study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS19461).
See "Prevalence of unplanned hospitalizations caused by adverse drug reactions in older veterans," by Zachary A. Marcum, Pharm.D., Megan E. Amuan, M.P.H., Joseph T. Hanlon, Pharm.D., and others in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society 60, pp. 34-41, 2012.