Medication Mistakes and Personal Injuries: Women and Elderly Patients

An elderly couple sits at a table. One takes medication while the other reads documentation.

A New Study Suggests Some Medication Errors Affect Women and the Elderly at Higher Rates

Are some types of medication errors more likely to affect particular patients, or are some patients at higher risk of sustaining injuries from dangerous drug interactions than others? According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Indiana University, Bloomington, women and elderly patients may be at greater risk of injury caused by dangerous drug interactions as a result of prescription and medication errors than other groups. A press release discussing the study explains, “women and older adults who use multiple prescription drugs are significantly more likely to be prescribed pills whose combination produces dangerous side effects.”

The study was published in the journal Digital Medicine. In the study, researchers concluded  that there is a “60% increased risk for adverse drug reactions in women compared to men,” and “a 90% increased risk [of injury] in cases of medicines whose interaction is known to produce dangerous reactions.” Elderly patients are also more likely to sustain injuries than younger patients as a result of drug interaction-related medication mistakes. As many as 25% of patients aged 55 and older have had some type of dangerous drug interaction, and that percentage goes up to more than 33% for patients over the age of 70.

 As Rocha explained, the researchers did expect to see “some elevated risk in the elderly since they use more medications,” but the risk was higher than they anticipated. Moreover, Rocha explained, “the gender bias was completely unexpected.” The drugs identified as part of harmful interactions were those that are quite commonly prescribed, such as omeprazole (a heartburn drug that many people know by the brand name Prilosec), fluoxetine (an antidepressant that many know by the brand name Prozac), and ibuprofen, a common over-the-counter painkiller.

 Learning More About Medication Errors and Medical Mistakes

The IU study points out that approximately one out of every three hospital visits, on average, results from “adverse drug effects,” which include harmful drug interactions. Physicians have a duty to ensure that medications they prescribe will not interact dangerously with other drugs that a patient currently takes. The following are additional facts and figures about  drug administration errors and prescription mistakes from The Patient Safety Network:

  • Adverse drug events cause 700,000 emergency department visits and 100,000 hospitalizations per year;
  • Adverse drug events are one of the most common types of inpatient errors, with nearly 5% of patients experiencing an adverse drug event in the hospital;
  • Transitions in care are also a source of harm related to adverse effects of medications;
  • Antidiabetic agents like insulin, oral anticoagulants like warfarin, antiplatelet agents like aspirin and clopidogrel, and opioid pain medications account for more than 50% of adverse-drug events.

If you or a loved one sustained injuries because of a medical mistake, you should speak with a medical malpractice attorney to determine your rights. 

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