Adverse drug reactions cost the NHS £466m a year

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Adverse drug reactions account for 1 in 16 hospital admissions and cost the NHS £466m a year, according to a study in this week's BMJ.

Researchers assessed 18,820 patients aged over 16 years who were admitted to two NHS hospitals in Merseyside over a six-month period. Drug history and symptoms were used to determine if the admission had been caused by an adverse drug reaction.

A total of 1,225 admissions were related to an adverse drug reaction, giving a prevalence of 6.5%. The average stay was eight days, which accounted for 4% of the hospital bed capacity. The projected annual cost to the NHS of such admissions was £466m.

Although most patients recovered, 28 (2.3%) died as a direct result of the reaction. Most reactions were either definitely or possibly avoidable. Low dose aspirin, diuretics, warfarin, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were most commonly implicated. Gastrointestinal bleeding was the most common reaction.

Adverse drug reactions are an important cause of hospital admissions, resulting in a considerable use of NHS beds and a significant number of deaths, say the authors. Many may be preventable through simple improvements in prescribing.

Measures are urgently needed to reduce the burden on the NHS, they conclude.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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