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Pharmacol Res. 2004 Jan;49(1):85-91.

Drug therapeutic failures in emergency department patients. A university hospital experience.

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  • 1Division of Pharmacology and Chemotherapy, Department of Oncology, Transplants and Advanced Technologies in Medicine, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy.


Drug therapeutic failure (DTF) could be considered as an adverse drug reaction in which the expected drug effects do not occur following a prescribed pharmacological treatment, including any clinical event that could be related to a low prescribed dose or lack of compliance. DTFs are responsible for increasing disease length, hospitalisation time and social costs, with the worsening of patient quality of life. The aims of the present study are: (1) to estimate the frequency of DTFs among cases of adverse drug events referred to the emergency department; (2) to identify drug classes implicated in DTFs; (3) to analyse the putative causes underlying DTFs. Data presented in this paper were obtained from the Pronto Soccorso and Adverse Drug Events (PSADE) study carried out to analyse drug-related emergency department admissions in several Italian hospitals. Patients, admitted to the emergency department throughout two periods of 10 days each, were interviewed to gain information on their medical status and drug intake during the last two weeks. The present study analysed the patient questionnaires collected in the emergency department of Pisa University Hospital. Among 123 recorded cases of adverse drug event, 41 cases (19:22 male:female ratio; age range: 17-98 years, median age: 75 years) were identified as suspect DTF, resulting in a frequency of 33.33%. A statistical analysis was performed to evaluate the influence of two variables, class of patient age and number of drugs assumed, on DTFs. In accordance with the present findings, showing that the number of drugs assumed by a patient may increase the risk of DTF more than advanced age (odds ratio: 1.371, P<0.02; 1.295, P<0.03, respectively), the prescription of pharmacological combinations might be proposed as a main risk factor for DTF occurrence. In conclusion, our results suggest that DTFs represent an important cause of emergency department admission, particularly in elderly subjects treated with pharmacological associations.

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