Home Health & Hospice

Understanding adverse drug events

Homecare Insider, April 15, 2013

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adverse drug events (ADE)—injury resulting from the use of medication—result in over 700,000 visits to hospital emergency departments and over 120,000 hospital admissions in the United States every year.

It’s a fact: ADEs are a serious public health issue. What’s more, due to the development of new medications (and new uses for existing medications), the aging American population, and the increase in the use of medications for disease prevention, the CDC believes that the number of ADEs will continue to increase.

Although many medications can cure infectious diseases, prevent problems from chronic diseases, and alleviate pain and suffering for millions of Americans, they can also cause harm. That harm is known as an ADE. For example, approximately 100,000 adults are treated in emergency departments each year because of adverse events from antibiotics. Many other medications—such as blood thinners, seizure medications, diabetic cardiac medications, and opioid analgesics—require lab testing and/or close dosage monitoring to ensure their effectiveness and safety.

The World Health Organization offers these facts regarding ADEs:

  • They are among the leading causes of death in many countries.
  • The majority of ADEs are preventable.
  • People in every country of the world experience ADEs.
  • In some countries, ADE-related costs such as hospitalization, surgery, and lost productivity exceed the cost of the medications.
  • No medication is risk-free. Vigilant assessment of the risks and benefits of each medication promotes patient safety.

Although ADEs are a serious problem, health professionals, including homecare providers, are in a prime position to reduce or help eliminate them. Providers can assess, educate patients about, and report suspected ADEs as part of their daily patient care—and they should do so even if they are unsure of the relationship between a medication and a reaction or event.

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