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Original Investigation
November 22/29, 2016

US Emergency Department Visits for Outpatient Adverse Drug Events, 2013-2014

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia
  • 2Northrup Grumman Corporation, Atlanta, Georgia
  • 3Chenega Government Consulting, Atlanta, Georgia
JAMA. 2016;316(20):2115-2125. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.16201
Key Points

Question  What are the characteristics of adverse drug events that lead to US emergency department (ED) visits?

Findings  Based on 2013-2014 nationally representative surveillance data, an estimated 4 ED visits for adverse drug events occurred per 1000 individuals annually. Among children (aged ≤5 years), antibiotics were most commonly implicated; among older children and adolescents (aged 6-19 years), antibiotics were most commonly implicated, followed by antipsychotics; and among older adults (aged ≥65 years), anticoagulants, diabetes agents, and opioid analgesics were implicated in approximately 60% of ED visits for adverse drug events.

Meaning  Adverse drug events from anticoagulants, antibiotics, diabetes agents, opioid analgesics, and antipsychotics are a common reason for ED visits and may benefit from patient safety initiatives.

Abstract

Importance  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 brought attention to adverse drug events in national patient safety efforts. Updated, detailed, nationally representative data describing adverse drug events can help focus these efforts.

Objective  To describe the characteristics of emergency department (ED) visits for adverse drug events in the United States in 2013-2014 and describe changes in ED visits for adverse drug events since 2005-2006.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Active, nationally representative, public health surveillance in 58 EDs located in the United States and participating in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System–Cooperative Adverse Drug Event Surveillance project.

Exposures  Drugs implicated in ED visits.

Main Outcomes and Measures  National weighted estimates of ED visits and subsequent hospitalizations for adverse drug events.

Results  Based on data from 42 585 cases, an estimated 4.0 (95% CI, 3.1-5.0) ED visits for adverse drug events occurred per 1000 individuals annually in 2013 and 2014 and 27.3% (95% CI, 22.2%-32.4%) of ED visits for adverse drug events resulted in hospitalization. An estimated 34.5% (95% CI, 30.3%-38.8%) of ED visits for adverse drug events occurred among adults aged 65 years or older in 2013-2014 compared with an estimated 25.6% (95% CI, 21.1%-30.0%) in 2005-2006; older adults experienced the highest hospitalization rates (43.6%; 95% CI, 36.6%-50.5%). Anticoagulants, antibiotics, and diabetes agents were implicated in an estimated 46.9% (95% CI, 44.2%-49.7%) of ED visits for adverse drug events, which included clinically significant adverse events, such as hemorrhage (anticoagulants), moderate to severe allergic reactions (antibiotics), and hypoglycemia with moderate to severe neurological effects (diabetes agents). Since 2005-2006, the proportions of ED visits for adverse drug events from anticoagulants and diabetes agents have increased, whereas the proportion from antibiotics has decreased. Among children aged 5 years or younger, antibiotics were the most common drug class implicated (56.4%; 95% CI, 51.8%-61.0%). Among children and adolescents aged 6 to 19 years, antibiotics also were the most common drug class implicated (31.8%; 95% CI, 28.7%-34.9%) in ED visits for adverse drug events, followed by antipsychotics (4.5%; 95% CI, 3.3%-5.6%). Among older adults (aged ≥65 years), 3 drug classes (anticoagulants, diabetes agents, and opioid analgesics) were implicated in an estimated 59.9% (95% CI, 56.8%-62.9%) of ED visits for adverse drug events; 4 anticoagulants (warfarin, rivaroxaban, dabigatran, and enoxaparin) and 5 diabetes agents (insulin and 4 oral agents) were among the 15 most common drugs implicated. Medications to always avoid in older adults according to Beers criteria were implicated in 1.8% (95% CI, 1.5%-2.1%) of ED visits for adverse drug events.

Conclusions and Relevance  The prevalence of emergency department visits for adverse drug events in the United States was estimated to be 4 per 1000 individuals in 2013 and 2014. The most common drug classes implicated were anticoagulants, antibiotics, diabetes agents, and opioid analgesics.

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