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4 Steps to Preventing Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs)

Not many individuals are likely to dispute the fact that prescription medicines have the ability to cure diseases, prevent issues related to chronic conditions and alleviate pain and suffering associated with acute to severe medical problems.


In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 82% of the population within the United States takes at least one prescription medication, and 29% of the population takes five or more prescribed drugs at any given time.


The high level of prescription drug use is due to a number of factors, including the aging population, the constant development of new medications, increased healthcare coverage for prescriptions as part of a treatment plan, and increased prescription use for the prevention of diseases. While the benefits of taking prescribed medication as part of a treatment plan are well-known and generally accepted, for many drug treatment patients, the looming threat of experiencing an adverse drug reaction counteracts these advantages.


The World Health Organization defines adverse drug reactions, or ADRs, as any unintentional or undesired effect of a prescription drug. ADRs are categorized into two broad categories: Type A reactions, which are exaggerated drug effects often based on dosage, and Type B reactions which are highly unpredictable issues related to error in monitoring, administering or prescribing a medication. The combination of Type A and Type B adverse drug reactions are the cause of more than 770,000 injuries or deaths within the United States each year, according to a recent study conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services. The stark number of ADR-related injuries and deaths is a cause for serious concern among patients, providers and pharmacists as the need for drug treatment plans continues to climb.


The key to preventing adverse drug reactions (ADRs)


In recent studies conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, numerous data sets indicated that the likelihood of patients experiencing adverse drug reactions could be reduced by as much as 95% by taking specific actions. The prevention of adverse drug reactions may be spearheaded by implementing the following:


Computerized Systems


Hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities can utilize software programs and facility-wide systems that prompt warnings for potential ADR-related issues when ordering medications for patients. Warnings often include consideration of a patient’s age, weight, underlying condition and renal function, providing a more holistic approach to creating a suitable drug treatment plan.


Through the Food and Drug Administration’s MedWatch program, healthcare providers have the ability to report serious adverse drug reactions among patients directly to the organization. The FDA then can pass along the reported information to other providers to use in practice. The FDA also has the ability to require label changes from manufacturers or request that a medication be taken out of circulation for the safety of the patient population.


Improve Mandatory Reporting Mechanisms

It is common that providers who are informed of an adverse drug reaction face the fear of repercussion or punishment upon reporting the patient’s experience. When errors are not reported, the total number of ADRs has little chance of decreasing. Implementing a system that encourages reporting and safeguards providers from repercussions creates an environment that is more palpable for reducing the prevalence of adverse drug reactions among patients.



Providers who use precision medicine, also known as personalized medicine, in practice have a greater overall understanding of how susceptible patients may be to certain prescription drugs. The personalized patient insight is provided through pharmacogenetic testing (PGx testing).


Some ADRs are due to a lack of patient confidence surrounding the efficacy of the medications prescribed, and the potential for medication non-compliance. When providers know how an individual patient may positively or negatively respond to a drug treatment plan, patient confidence increases resulting in greater medical adherence.


The combination of increased compliance and individualized care plans reduces the chance of ADRs from taking place.







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