US dialysis patients face higher risk of drug errors

Close to 20% of kidney dialysis patients have an increased chance of significant bleeding because they receive the wrong blood-clot medication after undergoing a procedure to open a blocked artery, the Journal of the American Medical Assn. reports.

The Journal of the American Medical Association. reported that nearly 20% of kidney dialysis patients face an increased chance of significant bleeding because they receive the wrong blood-clot medication after undergoing a procedure to open a blocked artery.

The findings “suggest many doctors in the United States ignore warnings on drug labels, often putting patients at risk of serious harm or death,” the journal reported.

"The results of this study illustrate the problem of medication errors in the United States, as well as the need to make patient safety a priority on the health care agenda," Thomas Tsai, MD, of the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center and colleagues wrote in JAMA.

Two blood thinners were studied - enoxaparin (Lovenox, Sanofi-Aventis) and eptifibatide (Integrilin, Merck Schering-Plough). Both drugs are not recommended for use in kidney dialysis patients, who are at particular risk of dangerous reactions.

The researchers used data from 829 US hospitals on 22,778 dialysis patients between January 2004 and August 2008 who underwent percutaneous coronary intervention. It was found that 5,084 patients (22.3%), got a blood thinner that was not recommended for them, resulting in twice the number of major bleeding events in the hospital and significantly more deaths.