AHRQ: Treatment for medication errors rising

A new study by the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality indicates a sharp rise in the number of people requiring emergency room visits or hospitalizations due to medication side effects or errors, reports the New York Times Well blog. In 2008, 1.9 million people became ill due to medication side effects or errors, compared to 1.2 million in 2004--an approximately 60 percent increase.

The most common class of medication to cause a medical issue are corticosteroids, which are used to treat asthma, colitis and arthritis. Blood thinners, cancer drugs and heart and blood pressure medications also caused a large number of medical problems.

Although the large majority or ER treatments and hospital admissions were linked to patients over the age of 65, 20 percent of cases were linked to children and teenagers.

Medication errors cost the U.S. at least $3.5 billion a year in lost wages, productivity and additional healthcare expenses, according to a 2006 report issued by the Institute of Medicine, which noted that medication mistakes were the most common of medical errors.

For more:
- read the New York Times blog post
- read the AHRQ statistical brief