The Canadian Study of Health and Aging collected verbatim data on the use of medications (drugs) and health products.
To describe how the names of drugs and health products are coded and how they can be summarized.
The data were entered manually into a database. After comparing three coding systems, the drugs and health products were coded using a modification of the American Hospital Formulary Code as temporary codes and the Anatomical, Therapeutic, Chemical Classification as the final codes.
Coding and input of verbatim drug data are time-consuming, particularly when done manually. Once the coding scheme is in place, the advances in technological aspects of data management greatly improve the process.
Poor concordance exists between medications that receive a priority review in Canada and those given an expeditious review in the United States. The objectives of this study were to obtain an evaluation of the clinical significance of new drugs approved in both countries from expert clinical pharmacologists, and to examine the concordance of their aggregate assessment with whether or not the product received an expeditious review in either country. Five experts assessed 146 new medications approved in both Canada and the United States between 1996 and early 2002. Overall, the concordance between the experts' assessments was poor and there was large variation in products considered to be of sufficient importance for priority status. Nevertheless, the experts' evaluations suggested that several priority-reviewed products did not warrant such a review. Regulatory agencies select new medications of potential clinical significance to receive shorter review times to minimize the delay in access to them, but, in Canada, only a low proportion of priority-status products had review times within Health Canada's performance target. The large variation in the assessment of clinical significance suggests that a more appropriate strategy in Canada is to devote sufficient resources to reviewing all medications in a timely manner.
Each year, nearly 100 deaths and more than 10,000 admissions to Norwegian hospitals can be attributed to acute poisoning from non-medical substances and drugs in supra-therapeutic doses. The aim of this study was to evaluate hospitals' routines for coding of acute poisoning deaths and to provide information on the toxic agents involved.
Medical records of deaths (at 6 Norwegian hospitals in the period 1.1.1999 -31.12.2005) due to acute poisoning were re-examined to assess accuracy of diagnosis codes.
Acute poisoning was registered as the cause of 225 deaths in the study period. The re-evaluation concluded that 45 of these deaths had other causes. In 125 of the remaining 180 deaths, acute poisoning was only registered as a side diagnosis, although re-examination revealed it was the major contribution to death in 66 % (83 of 125) of cases. The hospitals had classified the drugs according to ATC codes in 16 % (28 of 180) of patients with acute poisoning.
The present Norwegian coding practice does not document acute poisoning deaths in hospital correctly, and registry studies based on diagnosis codes should be interpreted with care. Current registration of poisoning agents' ATC-codes is insufficient and the Norwegian version of ICD-10 alone is not suitable for classification of acute drug poisoning. Replacement of the Norwegian ICD-10 version by the original international version should be considered and/or the routines for registration of ATC-codes should be improved.
The county of Malmöhus, with 817,000 inhabitants, in the far south of Sweden. All drugs handed in for destruction to the 65 pharmacies during one week in March 1996 were analysed.
92% of the packages were prescription drugs for human use, 7% were over-the-counter drugs, and 1% were for veterinary use. Slightly less than half (48%) had expired when they were handed in for destruction. 36% were unbroken when returned and another 18% of the packages were nearly full. A comparison between the drugs sent in for destruction and the drugs sold in the county gave a ratio of 0.030. Antineoplastic and immunosuppressive drugs, drugs for the respiratory system, antiparasitic products, and cardiovascular drugs were returned to a greater extent than other types of drugs. Drugs for the genito-urinary tract, sex hormones, and drugs for the alimentary tract were returned to a lesser extent. Extrapolated to a whole year the value of caseated drugs was estimated to 60 SEK (5.83 Br,) per person. The value of unbroken packages was 20 SEK (1.94 Br,) per person per year.
Although not all of the drugs handed in for destruction could have been unnecessarily prescribed or obtained by the patient, a more cautious approach to prescribing of drugs would likely yield significant savings.
The entire fatal drug poisoning panorama in Finland is considered in terms of three catergories: accidental, self-inflicted and undetermined (whether accidental or with intent to harm) deaths. The study material consisted of all 500 deaths in 1997 that medical examiners, after examination(s) at the Forensic Toxicology Division (FTD) of the Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Helsinki, officially certified as resulting from drug poisoning. These deaths were matched with data on the same deaths registered at Statistics Finland (SF), the national mortality statistics office. The SF register included 72 additional instances of deaths resulting from drug poisoning. In all but two of these cases, the cause-of-death determination was based on a medico-legal inquest with autopsy and forensic toxicological examination(s) and was certified, in most of the cases, as due to the alcohol component in multiple-toxicant combinations. Reclassifying these deaths at SF to the category of drug component is in accordance with current International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) regulation of coding "to the medicinal agent when combined with alcohol"; the principle and practice, which is recommended to be amended to equalize the status of alcohol and drug when explicitly stated by a forensic examiner as the principal toxicant in combined poisonings. With regard to manner-of-death, the agreement rates between medico-legally proven deaths from drug poisoning and those registered at SF were 79.8% for accidents, 98.5% for suicides and 0% (nil) for undetermined deaths, at the level of three-character external cause codes (E-code). All deaths originally certified as undetermined were re-assigned, most frequently to the category of accidental death. Since within an advanced and sophisticated medico-legal system, a medical examiner's evidence-based statement, even when the conclusion reached is undetermined (as to intent), should be taken as a compelling argument, the practice of reclassification cannot be considered advisable because assembled information is lost. Concerning the assigned drug-specific groups, the agreement according to the manner-of-death between certifications and registrations was fairly good. From among the accidents, however, opioid poisonings were re-assigned in 11 (29.7%) cases, mostly to the drug abuse/dependence categories, i.e. they were considered as natural deaths by the statistics office. The drug-specific observations were possible only by using the codes from the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) classification of drugs. This is why the incorporation of ATC codes into the ICD system, whenever reasonable, is recommended.
In an ideal harm reduction model, drugs would be ranked according to their potential to cause harm, with varying implications for control policies and interventions. In such a public health oriented approach, the maximum protection of the public from harm would be balanced with the least possible restriction of freedom. In reality, however, the accuracy and completeness of the necessary information for such a ranking is highly limited. Many other factors not readily incorporated in a rational model, such as values, beliefs, and traditions, also affect drug policy decisions. Thus, rather than relying on acquisition of the necessary knowledge, it may be preferable to focus efforts on developing effective nonlegal measures to reduce drug use and harm. [Translations are provided in the International Abstracts Section of this issue.]
Extraction of information related to the medication is an important task within the biomedical area. Our method is applied to different types of documents in three languages. The results indicate that our approach can efficiently update and enrich the existing drug vocabularies.
A risk stratification approach is needed to identify patients at high risk of medication errors and a resulting high need of medication review. The aim of this study was to perform risk stratification (distinguishing between low-risk, medium-risk and high-risk drugs) for drugs found to cause serious adverse reactions due to medication errors. The study employed a modified Delphi technique.
Drugs from a systematic literature search were included into two rounds of a Delphi process. A panel of experts was asked to evaluate each identified drug's potential for harm and for clinically relevant drug-drug interactions on a scale from 1 (low risk) to 9 (high risk).
A total of 36 experts were appointed to serve on the panel. Consensus was reached for 29/57 (51%) drugs or drug classes that cause harm, and for 32/57 (56%) of the drugs or drug classes that cause interactions. For the remaining drugs, a decision was made based on the median score. Two lists, one stating the drugs' potential for causing harm and the other stating clinically relevant drug-drug interactions, were stratified into low-risk, medium-risk and high-risk drugs.
Based on a modified Delphi technique, we created two lists of drugs stratified into a low-risk, a medium-risk and a high-risk group of clinically relevant interactions or risk of harm to patients. The lists could be incorporated into a risk-scoring tool that stratifies the performance of medication reviews according to patients' risk of experiencing adverse reactions.