Emergency-room visits from abuse of prescription and over-the-counter medicines doubled in the U.S. in four years, matching for the first time the number of overdoses of illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
Regulator-approved treatments were implicated in a record 1 million patients who sought help at hospital emergency departments in 2008, twice the number as in 2004, according to a study released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta. Overdoses from illicit drugs were unchanged, at 1 million emergency visits.
The most hospitalizations were caused by painkillers, with visits more than doubling, and tranquilizers, with an 89 percent increase. King Pharmaceuticals Inc., in Bristol Tennessee, and Purdue Pharma LP, in Stamford, Connecticut, won approval in the last year for drugs to prevent misuse.
A half-dozen drugmakers are developing pain pills that resist abuse methods such as crushing, dissolving in alcohol, and taking more than needed.
Additional measures are needed urgently, researchers wrote in the CDC’s Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report. Recent public health and law enforcement measures intended to prevent nonmedical use of such drugs have not prevented rate increases.
The biggest increase in emergency visits was from adults in their 20s, according to the study. The researchers analyzed reports from 220 emergency departments across the U.S. to estimate the nation’s tally.
June 17, 2010
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