How can we more effectively prevent adverse drug events?

Date posted: 
Thursday, August 1, 2019

Data access has been approved for Phase II of a research project which aims to reduce the incidence of adverse drug events in Canada.

Medication use, which has transformed the management of previously debilitating diseases, has become widespread among Canadians. A 2014 report from the Health Council of Canada indicated that over half of Canadians take at least one medication daily, with a third taking at least two per day.

As a result, adverse drug events (ADEs), the unintended and harmful effects associated with medication use, have become a leading cause of emergency department visits and hospital admissions, representing an important patient safety issue. Consequently, there has been increasing public attention to high-profile drug harms and withdrawals, and ADE prevention has become an important patient safety priority.

In April 2016, Health Canada, through the Drug Safety and Effectiveness Network, put out funding call for research proposals to examine what proportion of ADEs are preventable, indicating significant public and government interest in the prevention of medication-related adverse events.

A team led by Dr. Corinne Hohl, Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia’s Department of Emergency Medicine, answered the call, and completed Phase I of the research project in 2017. The study found that 69% of ADEs presenting to five Canadian emergency departments in British Columbia and Ontario, were preventable, and 35% of preventable events were repeat ADEs (i.e., the same clinical presentation occurring due to the same drug or drug class).

For Phase II of the study, PopData will link the team’s Phase I study data with six administrative data sets from the BC Ministry of Health and BC Vital Statistics Agency. “We will examine contributing factors and long-term outcomes of ADE patients to identify modifiable strategic targets for prevention,” says Dr. Hohl. “Data linkage will also allow us to develop an automated screening tool in the form of a clinical decision rule to help frontline care providers identify at-risk patients to ensure recognition of ADEs.”


Page last revised: August 1, 2019