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What Doctors Don't Tell You

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August 2019 (Vol. 4 Issue 6)

80% of older hospital patients discharged with wrong drugs
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

80% of older hospital patients discharged with wrong drugs image

Around four out of five older patients are being discharged from hospital with 'inappropriate' medication—such as the wrong drug—that is causing a life-changing reaction or even death.

A prescribing error is often responsible for the death of an elderly patient and those who suffer a serious reaction will be admitted to hospital at least three times before they recover, a new study has discovered.

Around half of older patients die after they were given a wrong drug or weren't given the drug they needed, say researchers at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in Scotland.

They analysed the records of 259 patients—with an average age of 77—who had been discharged from hospital. They were given a total of 2,411 medications, which means many had nine or more prescriptions, and 59 per cent were given 'inappropriate medications', such as a wrong drug, and nearly 70 per cent weren't given the drug they were supposed to have.

Over the following 40 months, around half had died, and the rest had been readmitted to hospital at least twice.

The shocking problem is far worse than any other research had suggested, say the researchers who had used a new analytical tool.

In a separate study, researchers have found that one in three older people suffer a serious reaction to a drug after being discharged from hospital. Around half of the cases could have been prevented, which suggests medication errors.

In the study of 1,280 people, the researchers say the cost to the UK's National Health Service is £396m a year, and 90 per cent of that is related to hospital readmissions.


(Sources: British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 2018; doi: 10.1111/bcp.13607; and doi: 10.1111/bcp.13613)

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