Targeting Outpatient Drug Safety: Recommendations of the Dutch HARM-Wrestling Task Force

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Abstract

Background:

Two Dutch observational studies (HARM [Hospital Admissions Related to Medication] and IPCI [Integrated Primary Care Information]) have shown that approximately 5% of all unplanned hospital admissions are associated with adverse drug events (ADEs), of which 40–46% are potentially preventable. These studies prompted the initiation of a Dutch multidisciplinary task force, which was assigned to reduce the number of prescriber-related hospital admissions related to medications (HARMs) in a quick-win way.

Objective:

The aim of the study was to identify the most relevant ADEs and to develop a limited number of recommendations for concrete interventions, which should be feasible and relatively easy to convert into computerized drug safety alerts.

Method:

To identify the major ADEs, crude data of HARM and IPCI were reanalysed and compared with different international studies, followed by structured literature searches for further characterization of the identified ADEs, their risk factors and potential risk-reduction strategies. Based on this information, the Task Force drew up general and drug-specific recommendations. As the recommendations of the Task Force are a mixture of evidence- and expert-based risk-reducing strategies, they have been graded in accordance with the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) methodology.

Results:

Seven pharmacologically predictable ADEs associated with ten drug classes were responsible for more than half of all potentially preventable hospital admissions in the IPCI and HARM studies, which was comparable to the results of international studies. Gastrointestinal and other bleedings were the most frequent ADE, followed by disturbances of diabetes mellitus control, electrolyte disturbances, fractures, renal insufficiency and heart failure. Nine general and 34 drug-specific recommendations were developed.

Conclusions:

As HARMs constitute a significant public health problem, the Task Force underlines the need to implement its recommendations as soon as possible. They do not replace existing guidelines, but reinforce, complement and fine-tune existing Dutch and international guidelines. Further research is still required to assess the cost consequences and cost effectiveness of some recommendations, and to monitor the implementation of the recommendations and their effect on the incidence of potentially preventable HARMs.

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