Study Finds Medication Injury Side Effects Increased Dramatically

The number of people treated in U.S. hospitals for illnesses and injuries from taking medicines jumped 52 percent between 2004 and 2008--from 1.2 million to 1.9 million--according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. These medication side effects and injuries resulted from taking or being given the wrong medicine or dosage.

The federal agency also found that in 2008:

  • The top five categories of medicines that had more than 838,000 people treated and released from emergency departments were: unspecified medicines (261,600); pain killers (118,100), antibiotics (95,100), tranquilizers and antidepressants (79,300), corticosteroids and other hormones (71,400).
  • For patients admitted to the hospital, the top five categories causing side effects and injuries were corticosteroids (used for such illnesses as asthma, arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and other conditions)--283,700 cases, painkillers (269,400), blood-thinners (218,800), drugs to treat cancer and immune system disorders (234,300), and heart and blood pressure medicines (191,300).
  • More than half (53 percent) of hospitalized patients treated for side effects or other medication-related injuries were age 65 or older, 30 percent were 45 to 64, 14 percent between 18 and 44, and 3 percent under age 18. Children and teenagers accounted for 22 percent of emergency cases.
  • About 57 percent of the hospitalized patients and 61 percent of emergency department cases were female.

This findings are based on data in Medication-related Adverse Outcomes in U.S. Hospitals and Emergency Departments, 2008.

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