Are the side effects of commonly used drugs driving healthcare costs higher?
We all know someone who has taken a drug that landed them in the hospital. Often, different doctors will recommend different medications which when combined can cause side effects that may include increased glucose levels, low blood pressure or worse, and may land you in the hospital.
While the movement toward evidence-based care is continuing to evolve, the data on how many patients end up being hospitalized from drugs they believe are necessary for their health is clearly showing an unhealthy trend.
According to Scienmag, a science magazine, “Anticholinergic medications, a class of drugs very commonly used by older adults, are linked to an increased rate of emergency department and hospital utilization in the United States, according to an Indiana University Center for Aging Research, Indiana University Center for Health Innovation and Implementation Science, and Regenstrief Institute study of community-dwelling Americans age 65 and older.”
These statistics are alarming and are most likely just the tip of the iceberg. Before taking a prescription drug, we should ask our pharmacist how safe it is, and also if it will cause an unexpected side effect that can land us in the hospital, which can lead to secondary infections and other life-threatening problems.
The other concern is the cost. In aggregate, we in the USA take more drugs than most other countries do, yet we are worse off health-wise, with the highest costs for healthcare in the western world.
Read about this growing problem here.
Commonly used drugs lead to more doctors office, hospital, and emergency department visits
INDIANAPOLIS Anticholinergic medications, a class of drugs very commonly used by older adults, are linked to an increased rate of emergency department and hospital utilization in the United States, according to an Indiana University Center for Aging Research, Indiana University Center for Health Innovation and Implementation Science, and Regenstrief Institute study of community-dwelling Americans age 65 and older.
Drugs with anticholinergic properties are frequently prescribed or purchased over the counter for chronic conditions including depression, anxiety, pain, allergy, incontinence or sleep problems. These drugs are used by as many as half of older adults and it is not unusual for an older individual to be taking two or more anticholinergic medications regularly.
The new study, published in the November 2016 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Phamacotherapy, analyzed actual prescription dispensing data from the Regenstrief Medical Record System to determine how much anticholinergic medication each person used, known as anticholinergic burden, and utilization of healthcare services such as hospital, emergency department and ambulatory visits. Prescription dispensing data are known to be more reliable than self-reported information.
Fifty-eight percent of the 3344 study participants were African-American; 71 percent were female. Fewer than 10 percent were cognitively impaired. All were patients served by Eskenazi Health, an academic teaching health care system in Indianapolis.
“Anticholinergics, the medications that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have previously been implicated as a potential cause of cognitive impairment, by us and by other researchers,” said IU Center for Aging Research and Regenstrief Institute investigator Noll Campbell, PharmD, who led the new research. “This is the first study to calculate cumulative anticholinergic burden and determine that as burden increases, so does healthcare utilization in the U.S. ” both outpatient and inpatient.”