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Medication Errors Put Elderly at Risk

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Medications do a lot of good for the elderly, but they can do harm as well. We know that medication errors are a common problem in the hospital setting, but what about patients seen in a doctor's office or clinic.

To help answer the question, researchers reviewed the medical records of more than 27,000 people age 65 and over, for one year. Their study, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, estimated there were almost two million medication problems, or adverse drug events, in the U.S. every year.

Almost 40 percent of those errors were serious, life-threatening or fatal. And the more serious the complication, the more likely it was preventable.

Dr. Jerry Gurwitz, Univ. of Mass. Medical School: "The adverse drug events that we observed in this study were associated with the most common medications that older people use,including heart medicine, diuretics, blood thinners and pain relievers."

Most preventable complications were linked to prescribing errors or monitoring errors, a lack of follow up with the patient.

And one in five were caused by patient error.

Many of the patient-related errors that led to adverse drug events had to do with a patient not adhering, not complying with a prescribed medication regimen, or using a medication inappropriately, sometimes using someone else's medication.

Findings that, hopefully, can be used to prevent medication errors in the future.

Information is key to preventing medication errors.

Whenever you're getting a prescription, be sure to let your doctor know your allergies and what other pills you are taking - that includes prescription medications, herbs, and over-the-counter products.

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