(HealthDay News) — Emergency department visits attributed to medication harms are frequent and vary by age for products and intent of use, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Daniel S. Budnitz, MD, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues assessed emergency department visits for acute harms from both therapeutic and nontherapeutic medication use in the United States. The analysis included 96,925 cases identified in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-Cooperative Adverse Drug Event Surveillance Project (2017 through 2019).

The researchers found an estimated 6.1 emergency department visits for medication harms per 1000 population annually, and 38.6% resulted in hospitalization. Rates of visits for medication harms were higher for patients aged 65 years or older versus those younger than 65 years (12.1 vs 5.0 per 1000). Most emergency department visits for medication harm (69.1%) involved therapeutic medication use, except among younger patients (<45 years), who had 52.5% of visits for medication harms involving nontherapeutic use. The most frequent medication types associated with emergency visits for medication harms among patients 65 years or older were therapeutic use of anticoagulants (4.5 per 1000) and diabetes agents (1.8 per 1000). Among those aged 45 to 64 years, the most frequent medication type was therapeutic use of diabetes agents (0.8 per 1000). Among patients aged 25 to 44 years, nontherapeutic use of benzodiazepines (1.0 per 1000 population) was most frequent, while unsupervised medication exposures (2.2 per 1,000 population) and therapeutic use of antibiotics (1.4 per 1000 population) were most common for children younger than 5 years.

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This study “likely underestimated the prevalence of medication harms from therapeutic and nontherapeutic use of medications because it did not include medication harms diagnosed and treated outside of emergency departments,” the authors write.

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