Illnesses and injuries from medicines given in hospitals jumped 52% between 2004 and 2008, from 1.2 million to 1.9 million, according to a report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
The adverse events were made up of drug reactions, adverse drug events and medication errors. (Although the data came from the hospital and emergency settings, the adverse outcomes could have originated elsewhere.) The study uses data from AHRQ's 2008 Nationwide Inpatient Sample and 2008 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample.
Although people most often arrived at the emergency room due to an unspecified drug, the next four most common treat-and-release medicines were known sources: pain killers (118,100); antibiotics (95,100); tranquilizers and antidepressants (79,300); and corticosteroids and other hormones (71,400).
For patients already admitted to the hospital, the top five categories of drugs that resulted in an adverse event were corticosteroids (283,700 cases); painkillers (269,400); blood-thinners (218,800); cancer and immune system drugs (234,300); and heart and blood pressure medicines (191,300).
Most common specific causes of drug-related adverse outcomes in U.S. hospitals, by setting of care, 2008.
A majority of inpatient drug-related adverse outcome cases (53.1%) were 65 and older, while a very small proportion (3%) were less than 18 years old. By comparison, among all inpatient cases, adults 65 and older accounted for 35% of stays while 15.9% of stays occurred in children less than 18 years old. Almost 36% of treat-and-release emergency department visits with drug-related adverse outcomes were made by patients aged 18 to 44 years. Although this age group had the greatest proportion of visits with drug-related adverse outcomes of any age group, they also had the highest percentage of visits overall at 43.9%.