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David Lowe
David Lowe
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Study Tallies Bad Drug Reactions

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A nationwide surveillance study to be published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that over 700,000 people annually report to hospital emergency rooms as the result of adverse reactions to medicines, including cases of overdoses and allergic reactions.

A New York Times story about the bad drug reactions that took people to the emergency rooms points out that the adverse reactions involve many of the more commonly used medications, including insulin for diabetes, coumadin (warfarin) for anticoagulation therapy, and the antibiotic drug amoxicillin, used to fight many infections. The elderly were more than two time as likely to sufer an adverse drug reaction, according to the study. The medications included over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, and herbal treatments.

The bottom line is that there are substantial risks in the use of everyday drugs. Medication errors can occur at several points: in the dosage intended by the prescribing physician, the dosage written on the prescription itself, the dosage filled by the pharmacy, labeling errors, improper instructions, patient failure to follow instructions, and interactions with other medications. Studies about the risks of adverse drug reactions are addressing a serious problem that demands more attention.