Seniors Experience Higher Rate of Medication Errors
Patients older than 65 years experience a drug error rate nearly seven times greater than those younger than 65, according to an analysis released Wednesday by prescription benefit manager Medco Health Solutions, the AP/Detroit News reports.
For the analysis, researchers analyzed Medco's drug insurance claims from 2.4 million adults in 2004.
Drug errors were noted in cases when a patient was prescribed a drug that was incompatible with medicines already being taken; when a drug could exacerbate another medical condition; or when an incorrect dosage was prescribed, according to Glen Stettin, Medco senior vice president.
Researchers found that seniors were at the greatest risk of prescribing errors, and the error rate for seniors increased for those patients who were treated by more doctors and prescribed more drugs. Seniors treated by two doctors received an average of 27 prescriptions per year and were at risk of 10 errors on average.
Those treated by five doctors received an average of 42 prescriptions per year and were at risk of 16 errors. According to Medco's analysis, nearly one-quarter of seniors receive prescriptions from five or more doctors.
Stettin said, "With more physicians providing care to patients, more prescriptions are being written," and "the more medications you take, the more potential there is for them interacting with each other." He added that there is "clearly a communication breakdown between prescribers."
Although pharmacies regularly cross-check for potentially dangerous interactions when filling a prescription, experts say that step alone is insufficient to prevent harmful drug interaction (Gold, AP/Detroit News, 9/14).