Patients being let downDoctors must report reactions, says BMA

11 May 2006

A quarter of a million patients are admitted to hospital each year after suffering an unexpected reaction to a drug, a report reveals today.

Serious reactions to medicines can include sudden death, respiratory failure and a heart attack.

But some doctors are failing to report such incidents to the medicines watchdog, says the British Medical Association (BMA).

Reactions under-reported

The BMA is calling on healthcare professionals to step up action on unwanted or harmful effects of drugs, saying these reactions are 'significantly under-reported'. A study highlighted by the BMA's report found that only 10 per cent of serious reactions are reported.

A different study, in 2004, found that 6.5 per cent of people admitted to hospital had reacted badly to a drug and that in 80 per cent of these cases, the reaction led to the admission. It also found that 2 per cent of patients admitted to hospital with such a reaction died.

'Professional duty'

The BMA report, Reporting Adverse Drug Reactions: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals, says the issue is costing health services GBP 466 million.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, from the BMA, said: 'Doctors have a professional duty to report all adverse drug reactions, especially if children or the elderly are involved. Unfortunately, too many health professionals are confused about reporting procedures.'

Kate Webb, Which?'s Senior Policy Advisor on health, said: 'We support the BMA call for greater feedback from all health professionals, not just doctors, on adverse reactions to medicines. But we also know that consumers can play a key role in reporting directly to the MHRA, as shown by this week's news of the expert review of the contraceptive pill Dianette. The experiences of consumers are valuable, and Which? wants to see wider encouragement of direct patient reporting to the Yellow Card Scheme.'

Healthcare professionals and patients can make electronic Yellow Card reports at www.yellowcard.gov.uk or by calling the Yellow Card hotline 0808 100 3352.