Buprenorphine Largely to Blame for Accidental Poisoning Hospitalizations

September 18, 2014
Katie Eder, Senior Editor

Just a dozen drug ingredients are the culprits behind nearly half of all emergency hospitalizations for unsupervised prescription drug ingestions among young children.

Just a dozen drug ingredients are to blame for nearly half of all emergency hospitalizations for unsupervised prescription drug ingestions among young children, a recent study conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found.

Using national retail pharmacy prescription data from IMS Health and adverse drug event data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-Cooperative Adverse Drug Event Surveillance project, the CDC research team estimated that 9490 emergency hospitalizations for unsupervised prescription drug ingestions by children aged <6 years occurred annually from 2007 through 2011.

Analyzing the culprits behind those hospitalizations, the CDC investigators discovered that opioids (17.6%) and benzodiazepines (10.1%) were the most commonly implicated medication classes, between which buprenorphine (7.7%) was the most frequently implicated active ingredient. In fact, “the hospitalization rate for unsupervised ingestion of buprenorphine products was significantly higher than rates for all other commonly implicated medications and 97-fold higher than the rate for oxycodone products (200.1 versus 2.1 hospitalizations per 100,000 unique patients),” the study authors wrote.

Alarmingly, the 12 most commonly implicated active ingredients—which also included clonidine, a drug indicated to treat both high blood pressure and ADHD—were linked to nearly half (45%) of the hospitalizations estimated in the study. Other medication classes featured on the researchers’ list included drugs for diabetes and depression.

“Emergency department visits and subsequent hospitalizations of young children after unsupervised ingestions of prescription medications are increasing despite widespread use of child-resistant packaging and caregiver education efforts,” the CDC investigators wrote in the study published online September 15, 2014, in Pediatrics. “Focusing unsupervised ingestion prevention efforts on medications with the highest hospitalization rates may efficiently achieve large public health impact.”