Older people have a high risk of adverse events associated with medicines, according to a literature review conducted by the National Prescribing Service (NPS).

The study looked at over 300 articles from Australia and overseas in order to develop a comprehensive understanding of medication safety issues in the community.

“This review confirms that medication errors continue to occur at all stages of the medication process – prescribing, supply, administration, monitoring and documentation,” said NPS CEO, Dr Lynn Weekes.

“Up to 73 per cent of these events are preventable, meaning patient safety is being jeopardised and avoidable burdens are being placed on our health system.”

Many characteristics of the other risk categories for adverse medication events are common among older people as well.

The other high risk categories included people with serious health conditions, those taking multiple medications, those using high risk medicines and those being transferred between community and hospital care.

According to the research, the most common contributor to medication errors and adverse events was poor communication.

This problem is exacerbated when patients are transferred between hospital and community settings.

“For medication management to be effective it must involve the patient [and] their carer, and all members of their health care team,” said Dr Weekes.

“Interventions should be monitored, assessed and if necessary, revised. To address medication issues that arise during the transfer of care a systems-based approach must be developed and implemented nationally.”

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