Landmark Study of Ambulatory Seniors' Prescription Drug Use Finds High Proportion of Preventable Adverse Drug Events

A rare study of non-institutionalized Medicare enrollees' prescription drug use, published in today’s Journal of the AMA, found that 42% of adverse drug events (ADEs) judged to be “serious, life-threatening or fatal” were deemed preventable. Of those preventable ADEs, over half occurred at the prescribing stage and at the monitoring stage. About one-fifth of the errors were due to patient adherence problems. The research involved an examination in 1999-2000 of nearly 28,000 Medicare enrollees in a New England medical group practice. To help reduce the rate of ADEs, the authors recommend (1) broader use of electronic medical record systems, (2) enhanced collaboration between clinical pharmacists, physicians and other prescribers; and (3) increased involvement of older persons and their caregivers in their pharmaceutical care.