Drug-Related Visits to the Emergency Department: How Big Is the Problem?

Payal Patel, Pharm.D., Peter J. Zed, Pharm.D.


Pharmacotherapy. 2002;22(7) 

In This Article


A systematic search of full reports published in English was performed using MEDLINE (January 1966-December 2001), EMBASE (January 1980-December 2001), and PubMed (January 1966- December 2001). Additional reports were identified through a manual search of reference lists in retrieved articles and in review articles. Search terms used were adverse drug reactions, adverse effects, drug interactions, emergency department, patient admission, hospitalization, compliance, health care costs, medication-related visits, and resource utilization. The same terms were used to search the Ottawa Valley Regional Drug Information Service database of nonindexed pharmacy journals (available from http://www.asksam.com/ovrdis/druginfo.htm). This database contains indexed material from 25 pharmacy and medical journals and 27 pharmacy newsletters, and provides links to electronic journals.

Titles and abstracts of cited reports identified were evaluated independently by both authors. If questions remained regarding eligibility for inclusion, the full text was reviewed. Retrospective and prospective studies evaluating drug-related visits to an emergency department were included. Drug-related visit was defined as any emergency department visit that fit in any one of the eight categories of drug-related problems listed above.[1] Excluded were all case reports of drug-related visits to an emergency department as well as articles that specifically evaluated intentional overdose, poisoning, or substance abuse as the cause for an emergency department visit.

Data extracted and described consisted of the estimated frequency of drug-related visits to an emergency department, rate of hospital admission, classification of each type of drug-related problem, patient populations at risk, therapeutic classes of agents most likely associated with emergency department visits, and, when reported, the economic impact of drug-related emergency department visits.


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