Qual Saf Health Care 12:165 doi:10.1136/qhc.12.3.165
  • Commentary
  • Adverse drug events

Adverse drug events: what's the truth?

  1. B Dean
  1. Director, Academic Pharmacy Unit, Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust and the School of Pharmacy, University of London, London W12 0HS, UK;

      Reasons for the wide range in reported adverse drug event rates include discrepancies in the definitions and data collection methods used. Great care must be taken when interpreting the results of studies of adverse drug events and other types of medical harm, and standardised methods and definitions are needed to compare adverse drug event rates.

      You don’t have to look very far to find that the number of patients being harmed by medication is perceived to be a problem. Nearly every medical, pharmaceutical, and nursing journal frequently publishes articles to this effect. Key documents on medical error—drawing particular attention to the harm caused by medication—have been produced by the US Institute of Medicine and by both the Department of Health and the Audit Commission in the UK. Add to this the widespread coverage at professional conferences and in the media, and it is clear that adverse drug events (ADEs) appear to represent an epidemic.

      What is less clear is how often ADEs actually occur. An enormous range of figures have been reported in the literature and are cited regularly—suggesting that ADEs occur in anything from 0.7% to 6.5% of hospital inpatients.1,2 In this issue of QSHC a further paper …

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