Annual or more frequent lab testing is recommended in patients who use certain medications on an ongoing basis so that drug complications can be avoided. However, these tests to monitor the safety of chronic medications are not performed as frequently as they should be. Prior research has indicated that as many as 60% of preventable drug complications were related to laboratory monitoring errors.
This study examined almost 100,000 patients taking medications for chronic illnesses over a period of three years to determine whether they received the recommended laboratory tests to monitor potential drug side effects. Nearly half of these patients (44-47% per year) did not receive one or more recommended tests, though it is important to note that the findings varied based on the type of drug,.
The researchers conclude that although lapses in drug safety monitoring in the outpatient setting are common, further research is needed to determine to what extent this failure to monitor results in actual medical problems. Drug safety monitoring is an important care issue that needs to be addressed by healthcare systems and physicians, and in physician practice guidelines.
Individuals who are prescribed a chronic medication can be proactive and ask their physicians what tests to monitor side effects are needed and how often, then call their physician for a laboratory referral when the time comes to be tested.