english.prescrire.org > Spotlight > Archives : 2011 > Hospital care and medication: frequent fatal adverse events that are often avoidable

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Hospital care and medication: frequent fatal adverse events that are often avoidable

A study in the USA has exposed the high frequency and severity of adverse events resulting from hospital care, especially due to medication. Nearly half of these cases could have been avoided.

A study on the frequency and severity of adverse events from hospital care, especially related to medication, has been carried out using data from the US medical insurance scheme Medicare, which covers elderly people in particular.

This study involving 780 patients revealed that one patient in seven has suffered a severe adverse event, i.e. one that has resulted in additional time in hospital, permanent harm, a risk of death or death.

The main adverse events were caused by medication (31%, in particular haemorrhaging under anticoagulant drugs), were care-related (28%), resulted from surgery or other procedures (26%), or were due to infections (15%).  According to the study, 1.5% of patients hospitalised died from the consequences of an adverse event. Nearly half of these severe adverse events were deemed avoidable.

Extrapolating these figures to the entire country, the death rate was estimated at 15,000 deaths each month.

In France, there is little available data, but the figures are consistent with the results of this American study. It can be inferred, by extrapolation, that each year in France approximately 20,000 elderly or invalid patients die in hospital from adverse effects of medication.

Confronted with such figures, we can only hope that more studies of this kind be carried out in France and that everything possible will be done to prevent avoidable severe adverse events.

©Prescrire 1 July 2011

"Fatal adverse events during hospital stays" Prescrire Int 2011; 20 (118): 185. (pdf, subscribers only)

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