The Medicine Safety: Take Care Report calculates the annual cost of medication-related problems in Australia at nearly $1.4 billion – 15% of total PBS expenditure.
The report was developed for the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia by the Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre at the University of South Australia.
PSA National President Dr Chris Freeman said the report revealed the sobering extent of the issue and demonstrated the need for medicine harm to become a national health priority.
He said the 250,000 admissions was almost four times the annual number of people hospitalised as a result of motor vehicle accidents.
“At least 50% of medicine-related problems are preventable, but only if we remove the siloed approach to medicines management,” said Dr Freeman.
“If medicine harm was a chronic disease it would already be a national health priority.
“This report highlights that governments, pharmacists and other health professionals need to work together to reduce the alarming incidence of medication errors, misadventure, misuse and interactions,” he said.
Report author, Professor Libby Roughead said that as the use of pharmaceuticals increased so too did rates of medication error, management problems and interactions with other medicines.
The report highlighted that in 2016-17 two thirds of patients visiting GPs took at least one continual medication, with 11% experiencing adverse medication events in the previous six months.
“This equates to almost 1.2 million Australians experiencing an adverse medication event in the past six months,” said Dr Roughead.
“Four in ten older Australians have been prescribed at least one potentially inappropriate medicine, confirming the need for greater checks and balances in the way medicines are prescribed, dispensed and monitored.”
PSA argues that increasing the role of pharmacists in medicines management and wherever medicines are used – in residential aged care homes, hospital discharge and in the community – has the potential to significantly reduce the number of adverse events and medication-related hospital admissions.
“Regular and thorough reviews of medicines are one of the ways to reduce this significant health risk and cost to the community. On average, four medication-related problems are detected for each person who has a home medicines review,” said Dr Freeman.
The report findings focus on four areas where medication-related problems are rife:
Inappropriate medicine use in residential aged care:
- 98% of people living in aged care facilities have at least one medication-related problem identified at review, and up to 80% are prescribed potentially inappropriate medicine.
- 17% of unplanned hospital admissions by people living in aged-care facilities are caused by an inappropriate medicine.
Hospital discharge a missed opportunity:
- More than 90% of people have at least one medication-related problem post-discharge from hospital.
- At least one medication error was identified in 60% of hospital discharge summaries where a pharmacist was not involved in its preparation.
- Only one in five changes made to the medication regimen during hospital admission were explained in the discharge summary.
Impaired kidney function increasingly common in older people:
- One in four older people treated with medicines that rely on the kidneys to clear the body are prescribed doses considered excessive.
- Among people with poor kidney function, at the time of their admission to hospital 16% were receiving a medicine that should not have been prescribed and 21% had been prescribed an inappropriate dose.
Multiple medicine use spells danger:
- The use of multiple medicines was responsible for 70% of cases where people are admitted to hospital for adverse drug reactions.