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3 Common Drugs Trigger Most ER Visits by Seniors
Date:12/4/2007

n cause excessive bleeding if the blood becomes too thin. Insulin treats diabetes but can sometimes cause blood sugar levels to drop to dangerous levels. And digoxin, a long-used drug, can cause a variety of problems from nausea to erratic heartbeats.

In some cases, there aren't good alternatives to these three drugs, although some doctors consider digoxin to have outlived its usefulness, the study authors noted.

Doctors can monitor the levels of all three drugs with blood tests, Budnitz said. Simple finger-prick blood tests allow testing of blood sugar levels, and similar tests measuring clotting ability are now available in some clinics for people taking warfarin, he said.

The study results are "a reminder that doctors and patients need to work on doing the best job we can managing these medicines," Budnitz said. "The answer isn't to take away medications."

Dr. Knight Steel, head of geriatric medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, said the study results aren't really surprising. Doctors have long known the risks of the three drugs in question, he said, adding that the research doesn't provide any new information.

More information

To learn more about the health risks that drugs can pose to the elderly, visit Duke University Health System.



SOURCES: Daniel Budnitz, M.D., medical officer, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta; Knight Steel, M.D., chief of geriatrics, Hackensack University Medical Center, New Jersey; Dec. 4, 2007, Annals of Internal Medicine


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