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Frequent A&E trips are powerful predictor of death from overdose

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The risk of dying from prescription drug overdose increases markedly based on how many times patients visit accident and emergency, according to US researchers.

Relative to patients with one or fewer trips to A&E in the previous year, the risk of dying from prescription drug overdose was five times the rate for those with two visits, 17 times for those with three visits, and 48 times for those with four or more visits.

“Emergency department visits may serve as an important window of opportunity for identifying patients at heightened risk of prescription drug overdose”

Guohua Li

The new study is among the first to evaluate the relationship between the A&E and overdose, according to its authors from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Nearly 60% of drug overdose deaths involve prescription drugs, noted the researchers.

They analysed data for the years 2006-10. They compared 2,732 patients who died from prescription drug overdose with 2,732 patients who did not.

 “Our investigation demonstrates that the frequency of emergency department visits in the past year is a strong predictor of subsequent death from prescription drug overdose,” said Joanne Brady, adjunct assistant professor of epidemiology.

“Emergency department visits may serve as an important window of opportunity for identifying patients at heightened risk of prescription drug overdose and for implementing evidence-based intervention programs, such as providing these patients and their families with take-home naloxone and drug treatment referral,” added senior author Guohua Li, professor of epidemiology.

The results are published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.

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