Sue Kedgley Sue Kedgley CREDIT: New Zealand Green Party

Deaths highlight need for vigilance

Wednesday 2 May 2007, 6:43PM
By Infonews Editor


Urgent measures such as electronic prescribing, mandatory reporting of adverse pharmaceutical events and much more careful medicines management are essential to reduce the unacceptably large numbers of New Zealanders being harmed by pharmaceuticals, the Green Party says.

“While attention is focussed on the death of Mervin McAlpine as a result of poor prescribing, answers to written questions to the Minister of Health reveal that there were 286 deaths relating to pharmaceutical medicines between 1990 and 2006,” Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

“Hospital records show that in the 2004-05 year, 16,789 New Zealanders were discharged with a diagnosis of an adverse effect from pharmaceuticals.”

“On top of this, the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring reported around 4000 adverse reactions in the primary healthcare sector,” Ms Kedgley says.

“These figures are very high, and we know they are just the tip of the iceberg, because reporting of adverse reactions to medicines is voluntary, not mandatory.”

“That’s a huge number of New Zealanders suffering from an adverse reaction to drugs, or from medication error,” Ms Kedgley says.

“Many of these reactions and mistakes are likely to be 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 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.”