CHICAGO (AP) - Records are showing that fatal medication errors
are dramatically on the rise.
An in-depth analysis finds that deaths from medications taken at
home -- like the death of actor Heath Ledger -- have increased
rapidly over the last two decades. The study finds deaths from such
errors jumped about 700 percent between 1983 and 2004.
The study's authors blame the soaring home use of prescription
painkillers and other potent drugs, which were given mainly inside
hospitals 25 years ago.
The finding comes after an analysis of nearly 50 million U.S.
death certificates. Of those, more than 224,000 deaths involved
fatal medication errors, including mixing prescription drugs with
alcohol or street drugs.
Researchers found the increase in such deaths was highest among
people in their 40s and 50s. As one scientist put it, "We're sort
of drug happy."
The study is published in today's Archives of Internal Medicine.