For Immediate Release Contact: Julie Lloyd
February 28, 2011 202-728-0610 x. 3010

Washington, DC- Patients who come to the emergency department with an adverse drug event (defined as an unwanted and unintended medical event related to the use of medications) are 50 percent more likely than other emergency patients to spend additional days in the hospital and incur almost double the health care costs of other emergency patients. The results of the Canadian study were published online Friday in Annals of Emergency Medicine ("Outcomes of Emergency Department Patients Presenting with Adverse Drug Events").

"These medication-related visits to the emergency department are common and costly, and nearly 70 percent of them are preventable," said lead study author Corinne Hohl, MD, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. "Some of these patients have misused medications, but quite a few are having side effects or aren't taking their medications as directed. Medication-related problems are not necessarily the first thing we look for in an emergency patient when we are trying to diagnose what is wrong."

Adverse drug events (ADEs) are the most common cause of preventable non-surgical adverse events in medicine.

Researchers followed 1,000 emergency patients for six months, 12.2 percent of whom came to the emergency department because of an ADE. There was no difference in mortality between ADE patients and other patients, but the cost of treating those with ADEs was significantly higher than for other patients. After adjustment for baseline differences between patient groups, the group with ADEs cost 90 percent more than those without ADEs over 6 months after the ED visit. The risk of spending additional days in the hospital was 50 percent greater for ADE patients. The ADE patients also had a 20 percent higher rate of outpatient health care encounters.

"The good news is that we are using data from this study to develop a new screening tool to help emergency physicians recognize patients at high risk of adverse drug events," said Dr. Hohl. "Down the road, we are working on an evaluation platform to help physicians with prescribing practices. We hope eventually to be able to prevent many of these events from even happening in the first place. "


Annals of Emergency Medicine is the peer-reviewed scientific journal for the American College of Emergency Physicians, a national medical society. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research, and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies. For more information visit www.acep.org.

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