HEART DRUGS: Dosage Errors May Kill 1,500 A Year
Roughly 22,500 U.S. heart attack victims receive the wrong dose of clot-busting drugs each year, resulting in about 1,500 deaths, according to a study released yesterday by researchers at Brigham & Women's Hospital. Researchers reviewed the findings of eight studies involving a total of nearly 50,000 heart attack patients who received t-PA, streptokinase or Retavase to determine the frequency of errors associated with the drugs, which typically are administered in hectic emergency departments. They estimated that patients who received appropriate dosages had a death rate of about 8%, but found that the rate doubled among those not receiving the right dose at the right time, with t-PA -- the most complicated of the three to administer -- causing the most errors. Errors were also more common in women, mainly because women's smaller size makes them more likely to need less medication than the standard dose (Haney, AP/Nando Times, 3/9). One study author said the findings likely underestimated the true error rate and noted that 33% of deaths could be avoided by using drugs that are easier to administer than t-PA (Sternberg, USA Today, 3/9).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.