Bennet, Snowe call on HHS to curb unnecessary hospitalizations

Two U.S. senators are calling for the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate efforts to reduce unnecessary and costly hospitalizations related to adverse reactions to drugs.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Maine’s Olympia Snowe are asking HHS to convene a joint task force with other federal agencies to determine ways to identify patients at risk for adverse drug reactions. The task force would also examine easier-to-understand patient medication guides, care transition that helps with medications, coordination of electronic health records and e-prescribing to better coordinate care.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that two-thirds of hospitalizations related to drug reactions stem from four medications: warfarin, insulin, oral anti-platelet agents and oral hypoglycemic medications.

“In light of these facts, it seems clear that action to better educate providers and patients about these common medications with the potential for inappropriate utilization could significantly reduce the number of hospitalizations,” the senators wrote in the letter. “While you are already undertaking efforts to reduce costs in the health care system, we believe that, in light of this compelling data, the department can do more to coordinate and ensure the adverse events of these everyday drugs prescribed to our Medicare beneficiaries become the exception, rather than the norm.”

Preventable hospital readmissions due to adverse drug events are among the most significant drivers of health costs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that avoidable hospital readmissions of Medicare beneficiaries cost the program $17.4 billion annually, and nearly one-quarter of such readmissions are directly related to adverse drug events.