Prevalence of potentially preventable unplanned hospitalizations caused by therapeutic failures and adverse drug withdrawal events among older veterans

Zachary A. Marcum, Mary Jo V. Pugh, Megan E. Amuan, Sherrie L. Aspinall, Steven M. Handler, Christine M. Ruby, Joseph T. Hanlon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Background. Studies of drug-related hospitalizations have focused on adverse drug reactions, but few data are available on therapeutic failures (TFs) and adverse drug withdrawal events (ADWEs) leading to hospitalization among community-dwelling older adults. Thus, we sought to describe the prevalence of unplanned hospitalizations caused by TFs and ADWEs. In addition, we evaluated factors associated with these events in a nationally representative sample of older Veterans. Methods. This study included 678 randomly selected unplanned hospitalizations of older (age ≥ 65 years) Veterans between December 1, 2003, and November 9, 2006. The main outcomes were hospitalizations caused by a TF and/or an ADWE as determined by a pair of health professionals from review of medication charts and application of the Therapeutic Failure Questionnaire and/or Naranjo ADWE algorithm, respectively. Preventability (ie, medication error) of the admission was also assessed. Results. Thirty-four TFs and eight ADWEs involving 54 drugs were associated with 40 (5.9%) Veterans ' hospitalizations; of these admissions, 90.0% (36/40) were rated as potentially preventable mostly due to medication nonadherence and suboptimal prescribing. The most common TFs that occurred were heart failure exacerbations (n = 8), coronary heart disease symptoms (n = 6), tachyarrhythmias (n = 3), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations (n = 3). Half (4/8) of the ADWEs that occurred were cardiovascular in nature. Multivariable logistic regression modeling indicated that black Veterans (adjusted odds ratio 2.92, 95% CI 1.25 - 6.80) were significantly more likely to experience a TF-related admission compared with white Veterans. Conclusions. TF-related unplanned hospitalizations occur more frequently than ADWE-related admissions among older Veterans. Almost all TFs and/or ADWEs are potentially preventable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)867-874
Number of pages8
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Volume67 A
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Drug-related problems
  • Hospitalizations
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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