Insulin, painkillers top medications that harm hospital patients —Study

Patient harm due to Insulin and painkillers like ibuprofen is one of the leading causes of ill health, deaths and long hospital stays at the adult medical wards of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), Benin City, a study has said.

The researchers said these drugs caused the highest number of unintended harm and indicated that adequate caution, proper care and continuous monitoring must be implemented with their use in the treatment of patients.

An adverse drug reaction is an injury caused by taking medication at a dose that is normally used for therapeutic purposes. It may occur following a single dose or prolonged administration of a drug or result from the combination of two or more drugs.

Intake of medicines sometimes carries inherent significant risks which include adverse drug reactions, drug interactions and other consequences of inappropriate medication use.

According to the study, the risk was most reported with insulin in 14 (27.5 per cent) patients. Painkillers like Ibuprofen in 10 (19.6 per cent) patients, hypertension medication in 8 (15.7 per cent) patients, malaria drugs in 5 (9.8 per cent) patients, herbal drugs in 4 (7.8 per cent) patients and antibiotics (antibacterials) in 3 (5.9 per cent) patients.

Common complaints by these patients included intestinal bleeding from the painkillers and impaired consciousness due to hypoglycemia from insulin, while antihypertensives manifested mainly with postural dizziness and headache due to postural hypotension and increased intracranial pressure, respectively.

In addition, this study recorded two deaths as a result of herbal drugs; one from the use of sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine combination (maloxine®) and one from taking Iron dextran a medication.

Also, patients harmed by the adverse effects of drugs during hospitalisation stayed significantly longer compared with those who did not or were admitted solely because of reaction to drugs.

In the study, the number of patients admitted solely because of ADRs (ADR-out) was 18, which accounted for 3.6 per cent of admissions, while those that experienced ADRs during admission were 33 (6.5 per cent) patients, giving an ADR prevalence of 10.1 per cent and incidence of 6.5 per cent.

According to the researchers, patients more susceptible to unintended harm from these medicines are individuals older than 65 years, those taking more than five different medications at the same time (polypharmacy) and those with many coexisting medical diseases.

This study on the pattern of medications causing adverse drug reactions and the predisposing risk factors among medical in-patients in clinical practice involved 507 patients on admission at the hospital’s medical ward from December 2013 to August 2014.

The 2019 study published in the Journal of Medical Science, involved Peter Ehizokhale Akhideno; Olumuyiwa John Fasipe; Ambrose Ohumagho Isah; Omagbemi Sampson Owhin and Oluseyi Ademola Adejumo.

Medications prescribed for the admitted patients were supplied by the hospital pharmacy or, however, they may occasionally be required to purchase some medications from retail outlets outside the hospital when these drugs are not available in hospital pharmacy.