The prevalence, severity and type of preventable medication harm in a medical care setting has been quantified in a systematic review and meta-analysis recently conducted by researchers in the United Kingdom. From 81 studies involving 285,687 patients, the pooled prevalence of overall medication harm and preventable medication harm was 9% (95% CI = 7 to 11%) and 3% (95% CI = 2 to 4%), respectively. It was found that preventable medication harm was most prevalent in the care of older patients, in intensive care, in highly specialised or surgical care and in emergency medicine settings. The proportion of preventable medication harm being mild, moderate or clinically severe/life-threatening was 39%, 40% and 26% respectively. Preventable harm mostly occurred during the prescribing and monitoring phases of medication use and was highest among medications acting in the central nervous system and cardiovascular system. It was concluded that a significant number of patients were exposed to preventable medication harm, and 26% of these exposures were considered severe or life-threatening. These figures emphasise the importance of identifying and reducing risk of medication harm, while outlining key areas for the development of intervention strategies and future research. The full study, published in BMC Medicine, can be viewed here.

Contributed by AMSS Associate, Isabella Singh