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Would Routine Drug Testing Decrease Medication Errors for Seniors?

A new study by Ameritox, Ltd., a urine monitoring service, believes that the segment of the elderly population who has been prescribed pain medication could benefit greatly from routine drug testing.

Older patients often ingest multiple medications which are prescribed by different doctors for different conditions. This means that seniors are at a higher risk for medication errors due to adverse drug reactions. Routine testing will allow doctors to monitor their older patients’ drug intake, which will ultimately allow medical professionals to provide better care to older patients.

The Ameritox study analyzed 725,679 urine samples of individuals over the age of 50. The data revealed:

•28.1 percent of the urine samples contained a drug not prescribed by the doctor ordering the urine test
•31.8 percent of samples did not contain a drug prescribed by a doctor
•7.6 percent of the samples contained an illicit drug

Primarily because one in four of the seniors tested were taking a drug that the doctor who ordered the urine test did not know about, the President of Ameritox urges routine testing to prevent adverse drug reactions in seniors. Drug testing will help alert doctors to the other medications older patients are taking so that they will know not to prescribe medicine that may negatively react to drugs already in the body.
In addition to preventing medication errors, the urine testing will give doctors and seniors confidence in knowing that patients are taking their prescribed medications. Other experts, however, disagree and feel that routine urine testing in seniors is unnecessary. These experts recommend drug testing if a doctor suspects a patient is misusing drugs but feels regular urine testing for seniors is extreme and invasive.
If you or a loved one is an elderly patient taking pain medication, please speak with your physician about possible drug interactions and monitoring protocol. If a physician fails to properly monitor a patient and harm results, that patient may be able to hold the physician liable for medical negligence. However, patient-caused medication errors occur frequently as well. As a result, it is important that all elderly patients and their physicians stay on top of their medication regimens.

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