Four Medications Have Been Discovered to Cause the Most Overdoses in Elderly Adults

A recent study titled “Emergency Hospitalizations for Adverse Drug Events in Elder Adults” available in the November 2011 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine has discovered four drugs that are directly responsible for two thirds of all hospitalizations and overdoses in elder adults. Interestingly enough, these drugs are not considered by physicians to be risky, but rather are very commonly used, especially in elder adults. These drugs include blood thinners and medications for diabetes.

The study recorded that 33% of hospitalizations were caused by a blood thinner called Coumadin. Insulin was responsible for 14% of hospitalizations, with other blood thinning drugs following closely at 13%. The last type of drug, called a hypoglycemic agent, is an antidiabetic drug that is taken orally. It was found to be responsible for 11% of hospitalizations of elder adults. These four drugs all have one thing in common: a narrow therapeutic index. This means that the line between a recommended dosage and a fatal dosage is very thin. Therefore, close monitoring of every individual is required in order to attain an ideal dosage that is both safe, as well as effective.

While taking blood thinners and antidiabetic drugs, it is highly recommended and often required for patients to undergo periodic blood tests. Their blood must be monitored closely to ensure that the drugs are not having any negative side effects on the patient. Additionally, it is important for the patient to have routine check-ups in the case that he or she is eligible for a dosage decrease. Because the therapeutic index of these drugs is so narrow and the risk of overdose is so high, it is especially important that your loved one’s dosage is closely monitored and maintained at a safe level.

Although it may be a tedious task to monitor someone taking one of these drugs and ensure that they are constantly receiving blood tests and necessary check-ups, it is crucial to their health and safety. Therefore, if your loved one resides at a nursing home, it is important for you to make sure that the home is adequately staffed and that the caregivers are well-trained and closely monitoring your loved one.

Another factor that must be monitored when an individual is taking one of the four aforementioned drugs is nutrition. Food can interact with these drugs and alter their effectiveness. This may lead to a necessary change in dosage as a precaution against overdose or hospitalization. Therefore, it is essential that your loved one is not a victim of malnutrition because in addition to its obvious health-related repercussions, malnutrition may also contribute to an inappropriate dosage amount and possibly hospitalization and overdose.

It is also important that your loved one’s nursing home is organized. Every resident should have detailed and extensive medical records. If your loved one’s records are unsubstantial, he or she may be at higher risk for polypharmacy, which is the excessive use of multiple prescribed drugs simultaneously. Because these drugs already put your loved one at higher risk of overdose, taking more than one can be especially dangerous. Therefore, it is important that the nursing home keep track of all medications that their residents are taking so that their physicians are aware that they are taking these drugs before prescribing other ones. While keeping records of all residents’ health should not be a difficult task, it is indeed an important one because a lack of organization may have serious consequences such as overdose and even death.


If your loved one is taking any of the above medications and resides in a nursing home in San Diego, Irvine, or Mission Viejo, it is possible that his or her rights as a patient are being violated. Because your loved one’s health may be at stake, it is crucial that you contact us today to see how we can help you obtain the care to which your loved one is entitled.