Recognizing, Reporting, and Reducing Adverse Drug Reactions

South Med J. 2001;94(4) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are underreported and consequently are an underestimated cause of morbidity and mortality. Recent epidemiologic evidence estimates that ADRs represent the fourth to the sixth leading cause of death. Public awareness is increasing as reports of ADRs and medication errors become more prevalent in the lay press. Reducing the number of ADRs can be accomplished by systems changes made at an individual and national level. At the individual level, increased diligence should be used with regard to reporting and documenting ADRs. At the national level, ADRs can be reduced by expanding the role of the arm of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) responsible for postmarketing surveillance.

Judicious use of medication has long been an essential element in combating illness. Advances in pharmacotherapy have allowed us to eradicate disease altogether in some cases and to effectively manage chronic illnesses in other cases. An often underappreciated by-product of these advances is the harm that frequently results from medication use. Modern history offers many illustrations of the consequences of ADRs. A healthy appreciation of these negative consequences gives perspective to the difficult balance between implementing pharmacotherapy and doing no harm.

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