Medication-related adverse events in health care

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

University of Oulu, Kontinkangas campus, Department of pharmacology and toxicology F202

Topic of the dissertation

Medication-related adverse events in health care

Doctoral candidate

MSc. (Pharm) Outi Laatikainen

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Medicine, Research Unit of Biomedicine

Subject of study

Clinical Pharmacology


Docent Tapani Keränen, Tampere University


Professor Miia Turpeinen, University of Oulu

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Up to one in four geriatric emergency visits to specialised medical care caused by adverse drug events

According to a recent dissertation study, adverse events related to medications are one of the most common reasons for hospitalisation among the elderly and one of the most common causes of death in western countries. Drug-related adverse events are also common during hospitalisation. Adverse drug events include both adverse drug reactions and medication errors occurring in the medication process, i.e. errors in the prescribing, distributing and administering medications.

The incidence of adverse events varies depending on the patient group and field of specialisation. Although adverse drug events are common in all age groups, elderly patients are particularly vulnerable to both adverse drug events and errors in medication administration. In patients over 65 years of age, the probability of hospitalisation due to an adverse drug event is four times higher than in other age groups.

For the first time ever, the dissertation formed a comprehensive view of medication-related adverse events in specialised medical care in Finland. Medication-related adverse events were studied in a multidimensional manner by considering both adverse drug events and medication errors occurring at different stages of pharmaceutical treatment.

The key finding of the study was that adverse events related to drugs are extremely common: approximately one in five patients treated in hospitals suffer an adverse drug event during the hospitalisation period. It is of particular significance that adverse drug events were estimated to have caused almost one quarter of elderly patients’ emergency visits to specialised medical care.

The majority of medications involved in the medication errors and adverse drug events belonged to five commonly used drug categories, the most common of which were drugs that affect the central nervous system. The study also revealed problems in the processing and utilisation of HaiPro material used in the monitoring of medication errors. In the current operating model, the information collected on medication errors is fragmented between units, making it difficult to use the information on a wider scale in the development of medication safety in different hospitals and hospital districts.

The study produced new information that can be utilised to develop the current processes and operating models of medication process, prevent adverse events and improve patient safety. As the number of elderly patients with multiple medications increases, active prevention requires intensive development of medication safety and of the related procedures.

A significant portion of adverse drug events could be prevented. Effective and safe medication administration requires comprehensive real-time monitoring and the use of special pharmacological expertise in continuous pharmacovigilance activities in hospital districts.
Last updated: 1.3.2023