One in Ten Nursing Home Residents Experience Injuries Related to Medication Each Month, Study Finds
About one in 10 nursing home residents suffer medication-related injuries each month, according to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, the Boston Globe reports. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School studied drug-related complications at two nursing homes in Connecticut and Ontario, Canada, for nine months in 2000 and 2001, as part of a follow-up to research conducted in 18 smaller nursing homes in Massachusetts.
During the nine-month period, UMass researchers reported 815 injuries, including four deaths, caused by reactions to drug treatments, 42% of which were determined to have been preventable. The study found that 73% of the most serious injuries, including internal bleeding and death, were preventable.
The blood thinner treatment Warfarin and anti-psychotic medications caused the most problems, according to the study, which indicated that the most common problems were confusion, oversedation, hallucinations or bleeding because of prescribing errors or inadequate monitoring for side effects.
According to the Globe, the new research suggests that there are about 1.9 million medication-related problems annually among the 1.6 million nursing home residents in the United States and that about 86,000 such incidents are fatal or life-threatening. Previous research estimated that there were about 300,000 medication-related errors in U.S. nursing homes annually, with about 20,000 being fatal or life-threatening.
Jerry Gurwitz, the lead author of the study, said, "These rates are five times the numbers we previously identified," adding, "If this is going on in these types of top-flight facilities that ... have more resources, more staff and greater involvement of physicians, it's without question happening more in community-based facilities. These numbers should be considered conservative."
David Blumenthal, director of the Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital and Partners Healthcare, said that the study "shows how far we are from realizing the standards of safety and reduction in errors that are prevalent in other parts of the economy, such as the airline industry" (Dembner, Boston Globe, 2/24).