HEALTHY LIVING
11/21/2012 01:11 am ET

Pharmacists May Be Unaware Of Discontinued Drugs, Study Finds

While your doctors may be aware of drugs that have been discontinued -- and may take care to let you, the patient, know about them -- a new study suggests this information isn't always being passed along to the people dispensing the medicine: the pharmacists.

Specifically, researchers found in their study that pharmacies refilled 1.5 percent of medications that had been discontinued. And in 12 percent of these cases, potential harm -- in the form of risk of low blood pressure, allergic reactions, nausea and lightheadedness -- was at stake for the patient. The findings are published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

"This is a novel patient safety issue that has not been measured previously," study researcher Dr. Thomas Sequist, M.D., M.P.H., a doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Vanguard Medical Associations, said in a statement.

The study included analysis of 1,218 medications discontinued during 2009, as well as 400 patient charts that may have included a negative health effect of a patient taking a discontinued medication.

Researchers noted that electronic medical records make it easy for doctors to send prescription information to pharmacists, as well as information about discontinued medications. But just because a doctor sends information out in an electronic medical record saying the drug has been discontinued, doesn't mean that the pharmacist will automatically see this notification.

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
Life hacks and juicy stories to get you through the week.

CONVERSATIONS