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Side Effects

Volume 455: debated on Monday 8 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what percentage of hospital admissions were caused by side effects from prescribed medication in each of the last three years; and what estimate she has made of the cost to the NHS of treating patients affected by such side effects in each year. (108642)

The most recent estimate of the burden of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) in the United Kingdom comes from a study published in the British Medical Journal in July 2004. The study conducted in two large hospitals in Merseyside, suggested that ADRs account for 6 per cent. of hospital admissions. This is a similar estimate to a number of studies worldwide, including figures from the United States. The study did not differentiate between prescribed and unprescribed medicines; however the majority of ADRs were associated with prescribed medicines. The projected annual cost of such admissions to the national health service (NHS) is £466 million.

This study highlights the importance of effective systems for monitoring and responding to issues relating to the safety of medicines, a process called ‘pharmacovigilance’. This study, which was funded by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency {MHRA), underlines the Agency’s commitment to improving the evidence base for pharmacovigilance in the UK. As part of this commitment to improving pharmacovigilance, the MHRA is working to strengthen and widen access to the Yellow Card Scheme for reporting suspected ADRs. Access has recently been widened to allow patients to report.