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24,000 suffer adverse reactions to medicines

5 August 2008

24,000 suffer adverse reactions to medicines

Over 22,000 New Zealanders suffered adverse reactions to medicines while they were in hospital last year, and a further 1910 experienced adverse reactions to medicines obtained outside of hospitals, according to figures obtained by the Green Party from answers to written questions.

"The high number of New Zealanders being harmed by pharmaceuticals each year shows an urgent need for measures such as electronic prescribing, mandatory reporting of adverse events and much more careful medicines management," Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

Ms Kedgley said these figures did not include the number of people who were given the wrong medication last year, as the Minister of Health had refused to disclose this figure.

"That's an extraordinary number of people suffering from an adverse reaction to drugs. If 24,000 New Zealanders experienced an adverse reaction to dietary supplements, it would be considered a national scandal," Ms Kedgley noted.

"We know they are just the tip of the iceberg, because reporting of adverse reactions to medicines is voluntary, not mandatory.

"The 1910 adverse reactions to medicines were reported to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring. The figure could be considerably higher as reporting to the Centre is voluntary and generally only includes serious reactions from patients.

"Many of these reactions are preventable, and an urgent nationwide strategy is needed to reduce the number of New Zealanders harmed in this way.

"The fact is that pharmaceutical drugs can cause serious harm if they are wrongly prescribed, or if they interact with certain other drugs. We need much more careful medicines management in New Zealand.

"The Green Party strongly supports a move to electronic prescribing in hospitals as one way of reducing medication error. Mandatory reporting and publication of all adverse pharmaceutical events would also enable us to assess trends over time, and focus on hospitals which have particular problems in order to put reliable and effective systems in place," Ms Kedgley says.

"Other measures needed include greater involvement in medicines management by pharmacists, and a requirement that all medicines sold in New Zealand are accompanied by information about potential side effects and drug interaction. Pharmacists need to be funded to provide medicine management advice to high users of medicines, and an independent consumer information service should be set up."


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