1 in 10 Nursing Home Residents
Suffer an Adverse Drug Event Monthly

The nation’s long-term care residents suffer 1.9 million adverse drug events every year, according to a new study from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.[1] The study concluded that 86,000 of these adverse drug events were fatal or life-threatening, and that 70 percent of those events were preventable.

Researchers studied residents of two academic long-term care facilities over a period of up to 9 months. During that time the researchers assessed the frequency, severity, and preventability of adverse drug events. An adverse drug event is defined as “an injury resulting from the use of a drug.”  Their findings include:

Adverse Drug Events

  • The study found that overall, almost 1 in 10 residents suffered an adverse drug event every month. Over 70% of adverse events resulted in symptoms lasting more than 1 day. Many of the adverse events were considered preventable, and the authors found, “Serious, life-threatening, and fatal adverse drug events were more likely to be preventable than were less severe events.”

Prescription and Monitoring Errors

  • Adverse drug events were most often caused by errors in the prescribing and monitoring stages of pharmaceutical care. Fewer errors occurred at the dispensing and administration stages. Residents regularly taking more medications or taking medications from several drug categories were found to be at a higher risk of having an adverse drug event.

New Report Confirms Prior Study

  • The report also cited a previous study[2] by the same author in which it was determined that adverse drug events in community-based nursing homes are common, and that at least half of such events may be preventable.

[1] Jerry H. Gurwitz et al., The Incidence of Adverse Drug Events in Two Large Academic Long-Term Care Facilities. Am J Med. 2005;Vol. 118.251-258

[2] Jerry H. Gurwitz et al., Incidence and Preventability of Adverse Drug Events in Nursing Homes. Am J Med. 2000;Vol.109:87–94.

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