About 25% of Drug Errors Could Be Prevented Among Seniors, Study Finds
About 25% of adverse side effects related to prescription drugs in seniors could be prevented, according to a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the AP/Wall Street Journal reports (AP/Wall Street Journal, 3/5). The study, conducted by Boston-area researchers, tracked about 27,617 Medicare beneficiaries receiving care from an HMO in New England and found 1,523 adverse drug reactions during a one-year period, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. About 20% of those errors were caused by patients' failures to correctly administer the medications. Researchers said 28% of errors overall and about 42% of "serious, life-threatening or fatal" reactions -- which accounted for one-third of all negative reactions -- could have been prevented (Spice, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/5). The study findings suggest that more than 1.9 million negative side effects occur among the nearly 40 million Medicare beneficiaries in the United States, the AP/Journal reports. "It's obvious that it's a major issue, a major problem," Dr. Jerry Gurwitz, lead author of the study and a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, said (AP/Wall Street Journal, 3/5). Dr. David Bates, chief of internal medicine at Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital and co-author of the study, said that computerized tracking systems to alert physicians when patients are taking multiple prescriptions could lower the number of preventable side effects (Ricks, Long Island Newsday, 3/5). Dr. Carolyn Clancy, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, said, "The findings from this important study can help reduce [seniors'] risks of drug-related injuries by providing information needed for the development and testing of prevention strategies using system-based approaches" (AHRQ release, 3/4). The study is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.