Side effects lead to ER visits – Twelve per cent of patients rushed to VGH have adverse reaction to medications, study finds

Vancouver Sun
By Pamela Fayerman

VANCOUVER – Twelve per cent of patients who rush to the emergency room at Vancouver General Hospital are there because of adverse effects from medications, according to study findings being published Tuesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The 11 international authors of the study said patients with medication-related complaints are more likely to be admitted to hospital beds after they’ve been seen in the ER and occupy those beds far longer than others, a result the authors described as “striking.”

…”We’ve proven in this study that we’ve got a problem in the health care system with patients who experience bad effects from medications and we have to figure out how to reduce those problems,” said lead investigator Dr. Peter Zed, who was working at VGH during the study but is now at the Queen Elizabeth Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.

“The solutions will involve better communication among doctors, pharmacists and patients,” Zed said in an interview. “Simply handing out a pamphlet at the pharmacy that lists all the potential side-effects doesn’t work. Patients don’t read them or they don’t understand the information.”

Problems stemmed from a variety of issues including patients being prescribed the wrong drugs, given wrong dosages, allergic reactions, interactions between drugs and patients not following instructions for how or when to take their medications.

…Health Minister George Abbott said in an interview the study points to the need for “continuous improvement when it comes to misuse, overuse and abuse of drugs.”

The province plans to establish a patient safety and quality council to reduce adverse events, promote transparency and identify best practices to improve patient care, Abbott said.

Central nervous system medications such as opioid painkillers, antipsychotics for those with mental health issues, sleeping pills, and antidepressants were the types of drugs most likely to cause problems.


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