ProPublica study finds blood thinning drug widely used, insufficiently monitored

Today's Washington Post reports on a ProPublica expose concerning the use of the drug Coumadin, a popular (in the sense of widely used) anti-coagulant used by many elderly people to prevent blood clotting. (The Post headline jumped out at me in part because two of my own relatives use or have used the drug in recent years.) But proper use of the drug requires careful calibration of the dosage, and ProPublica found that too often the necessary calibration isn't happening, and serious problems result:

When nursing homes fail to maintain this delicate balance, it puts patients in danger. From 2011 to 2014, at least 165 nursing home residents were hospitalized or died after errors involving Coumadin or its generic version, warfarin, a ProPublica analysis of government inspection reports shows. Studies suggest there are thousands more injuries every year that are never investigated by the government.

Even though data from North Carolina show that errors involving Coumadin are a leading cause of patient death in nursing homes,

Coumadin deaths and hospitalizations have drawn only limited attention from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that regulates nursing homes. Federal officials haven’t tallied Coumadin cases to see the full extent of the damage or identify common problems involving the use of the drug. Neither has the American Health Care Association, the trade group for nursing homes.

The full Post story is here.

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