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Medication can harm as well as help.
Medication can harm as well as help.
Medication can harm as well as help.

Medication can harm as well as help.

What is medication-related harm?

Someone is considered to have suffered from medication-related harm when they experience a harmful effect from a medication. Medication-related harm may be non-predictable (allergic reactions), predictable (side-effect) or preventable (medication error). Medication-related harm may also be described as an adverse drug event.

Why is eliminating medication-related harm important?

In addition to the impact of medication-related harm on an individuals quality of life it will usually also require clinical intervention such as a visit to a doctor or the hospital. It is estimated that medication-related harm is responsible for 30% of hospitalisations in older Australians. Up to 15% of older people visiting their general practitioner report experiencing medication-related harm with up to one quarter of these harm related incidents being deemed preventable.

Could your medication be causing harm?

Some medications are more commonly associated with medication-related harm and these are described as ‘high-risk’ medications. Medications to treat heart disease, blood clots, diabetes and behavioural disorders are ‘high-risk’ medications, especially in the older population. It is estimated that up to 50% of Australian aged-care residents are prescribed at least one ‘high-risk’ medication.

How to eliminate medication-related harm.

Strategies to address medication-related harm include standardised medication charts, technology to reduce human error (automated dispensing) and collaborative medication reviews (involving doctors, clinical pharmacists and nurses). Medication reviews are an effective strategy to assess the use of ‘high-risk’ medications in the older population.