This Class of Drugs Causes Almost 100,000 Annual Emergency Visits

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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Insulin: legal, widely used, and transforms lives. But there are risks—soon you’ll see why we try to spare our type II diabetics from having to start insulin. Using oral medications to their maximum dose and incorporating diet and lifestyle changes is the way to go before resorting to insulin.

Of course, tight blood sugar control is the goal for reducing diabetes related complications (kidney disease, eye disease, neuropathy) but insulin remains one of the most challenging aspects of diabetes management given the risks. Here are the shocking numbers.

Insulin and emergency room visits:

Based on a national survey of adverse drug events, an estimated 97, 648 emergency room visits for insulin related incidents occurred annually—and almost one-third of those resulted in a hospital stay. In our elderly folks, it’s even worse. People 80 and older on insulin were more than twice as likely as those age 16 – 45 to visit the emergency room, and nearly 5 times as likely to be hospitalized as a result.

Why do people get into trouble with insulin?

Well, reduced food intake and using the wrong insulin product (for example, a short-acting instead of a long-acting insulin) were the most common reasons. Half of emergency room visits involved meal-related misadventures (forgetting to eat right after taking a rapid-acting insulin or not adjusting insulin dose when you eat less).

An estimated 22% of emergency room visits for insulin-related low blood sugar events were in those taking the wrong insulin, and 12% accidentally took the wrong dose.

Why are insulin-related emergency room visits a big deal?

First and foremost: your safety!

Additionally, the nearly 100,000 visits and 30,000 hospitalizations annually for insulin related adverse events are estimated to cost well over $600 million over 5 years.

Dr O.

Drugs featured in this story

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