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BY THE NUMBERS //

Seniors at Risk

Elderly patients are vulnerable to adverse drug events. Here’s how those mistakes translate into numbers.

Winter 2006
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18.4
Average number of prescriptions filled by each Medicare enrollee in 1992 (including refills)

29.7
Average number of prescriptions filled by each Medicare enrollee in 2000 (including refills)

67
Percentage of nursing-home residents with adverse drug events over a four-year period

15
Percentage of those events that resulted in hospitalization

28
Percentage of elderly patients who, in one year-long study, filled prescriptions for a potentially problematic psychotropic drug

5
Percent chance that, in 2000–2001, an elderly HMO patient received a drug categorized by the widely used Beers criteria as “always avoid” because of general inefficacy or high risk of toxicity

1.9
Millions of adverse drug events (estimated), including allergic reactions and unintentional overdoses, in Medicare enrollees in 2003

180,000
Number that were life-threatening or fatal

475,000-plus
Number that, with better prescribing and monitoring, might have been prevented

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