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Communication between primary-care physicians and patients can reduce medication-related problems

BOSTON Primary-care physicians who encourage their patients to let them know about bothersome side effects of prescribed medications and who address such problems promptly can reduce the chances that patients will be harmed by the medications, according to a new study by researchers in Boston.

The study results, published in the Jan. 24 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, will help researchers develop strategies for decreasing the number of adverse drug events (ADEs) instances of injury arising from prescription medicines in patients across the country, the authors suggest.

"In an earlier study, we tracked ADEs in a group of patients being treated in primary-care practices. We expected that the same percentage of outpatients would have ADEs as had been found in studies of hospitalized patients about 7 percent," says the study's lead author, Saul N. Weingart, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Patient Safety at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He conducted the research while on staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "We were astounded to find the actual rate was 25 percent, and that many of the ADEs were preventable. In the new study, we wanted to see the extent to which doctor/patient communication about patients' medication symptoms resulted in such incidents."

David W. Bates, MD, MSc, of Brigham and Women's Hospital, is the study's senior author. The investigators were based at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the Harvard School of Public Health.

The study involved 661 patients at four adult primary-care practices in Boston. Researchers interviewed patients and reviewed their medical records to tally the number of ADEs reported over a three-month period. They also surveyed physicians whose patients experienced medication-related symptoms. A panel of physicians and pharmacists reviewed each reported symptom to determine whether it constituted a true adverse drug
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Contact: Bill Schaller or Rob Levy
william_schaller@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-5357
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
24-Jan-2005


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