Analgesics and Antibiotics Send More People to ED

May 2011

Analgesics and Antibiotics Send More People to ED 






Elsevier Global Medical News


Drug-related adverse events were the reason for 838,000 treat-and-release visits to the emergency department in 2008, accounting for 0.8% of all ED visits, according to figures from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The top five agents that sent people to emergency departments were unspecified medicines (261,600), analgesics (118,100), antibiotics (95,100), tranquilizers and antidepressants (79,300), and corticosteroids and other hormones (71,400).

Of all drug-related treat-and-release ED visits, 74% were classified as adverse drug events (defined as an adverse reaction to the correct drug properly administered, including allergic or hypersensitivity reactions) and 24% were due to accidental poisoning (overdose of drug, wrong drug given or taken in error, drug taken inadvertently).

ED visits resulting from illegal drug use (38,200 visits) or cases where there was evidence of deliberate poisoning or self-harm (145,600 visits) were not included in the totals.

Analgesics included acetaminophen, NSAIDs, and opiates; opiates were the most common analgesic to result in an ED treat-and-release visit, at 4.4% of the total.

The vast majority of hospital stays associated with drug-related injuries and illnesses, nearly 93%, were attributed to allergic or hypersensitivity reactions. Another 7% of these hospital stays were related to medication poisonings caused by accidental drug overdose or taking the wrong drug. The data include adverse reactions that originated both in and out of the hospital but resulted in a hospital stay.

Drug-related adverse events carried a hefty price tag: In 2008, the average hospital stay for patients with any drug-related adverse outcome was $13,600, compared with an average of $9,200 for all stays.

The AHRQ figures are based on data from the 2008 HCUP Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a nationwide database of community hospital stays in the United States. 

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