Medication, drug-related hospitalizations skyrocket

Hospital admissions among Americans ages 45 and older for medication and drug-related conditions doubled between 1997 and 2008, according to a report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Such conditions include the effects of prescription and over-the-counter medications and illicit drugs.

Drug-related stays jumped 117 percent--from 30,100 to 65,400--for people ages 45 to 64 between 1997 and 2008. For 65- to 84-year olds, admissions increased by 96 percent, and for people ages 85 and older, they increased by 87 percent. Yet, hospital stays for these conditions among 18- to 44-year-olds decreased by 11 percent.

"As the average age of hospital patients continues to increase, so does the need for close monitoring of the types and dosages of drugs given to them," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D.

The significant increase stemmed from rapid growth in drug-induced delirium, poisonings (overdoses) by opiate-based pain meds, and withdrawal from narcotic or non-narcotic drugs, according to the AHRQ. In 2008, drug-induced delirium and opiate-based poisonings accounted for 60 percent of drug-related stays for patients 65 to 84 years old and 78 percent for patients 85 years and older.

The report also shows that Medicare and Medicaid covered 57 percent of the $1.1 billion cost to hospitals in 2008 for treating patients with medication and drug-related conditions. Private insurance covered 24 percent, while the uninsured accounted for 14 percent, noted the AHRQ.

In 2008, a hospital stay for drug-related conditions cost an average of $4,900, compared to $6,700 for all stays without a major operating room procedure. These substance abuse admissions accounted for $2.4 billion--roughly 1 percent--of total hospital costs.

For more:
- check out the AHRQ press release
- here's the report