Improved Safety Practices Can Help Reduce Adverse Drug Reactions

Posted by Pharmacist on September 17, 2011


The International Pharmaceutical Federation 71st Annual Congress held in September 2011 featured a report from Katja Hakkarainen, MSc Pharm, PhD candidate, from the Nordic School of Public Health in Gothenburg, Sweden that finds approximately half of all adverse drug reactions (ADRs) can be prevented. This includes ADRs that happen in and outside hospitals.

When a patient is given (or takes) an inappropriate dose or when health care providers miss contraindications for specific treatments, preventable ADRs may occur. Information provided by the conference reports there are multiple types of preventable ADRs, including internal bleeding attributed to anticoagulant therapy with insufficient monitoring and gastrointestinal bleeding brought about by an inappropriate use of painkillers.

These ADRs can come from “poor coordination of care, lack of time and knowledge among health professionals, and lack of patient education,” according to Hakkarainen, “Unfortunately there is no consensus today on what to do to prevent ADRs.”

Hakkarainen says improved patient safety procedures can help reduce unnecessary drug-related deaths. She and her research team looked at seven databases to study articles about ADRs (both in and outpatient) in which the patient had an unscheduled hospital or emergency room visit. Hakkarainen said “There was no previous meta-analysis on the proportion of patients with preventable ADRs and the preventability of ADRs among inpatients and outpatients.”

The team concluded 51 percent of all ADRs were preventable, while 72 percent of ADRs with elderly patients were preventable. And 45 percent of inpatient ADRs could have been prevented.

While the researchers note a “cautious interpretation” of the study is important, it does show “a large proportion of patients suffer from preventable ADRs, and that many ADRs are preventable.”

“It is imperative to create a climate in which they are not hidden and where there is no ‘blame and shame’ involved. Human error will occur as humans continue to work in healthcare and use medicines. Thus, safety measures need to be incorporated into the health system,” she concluded.

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