University of Arizona pharmacologists have tested currently employed tools for assessing whether pharmacies catch and prevent harmful drug interactions. In many cases, the frightening answer is that they don’t.
The researchers, led by Daniel Malone, brought prescriptions written for fictitious patients to 64 Arizona pharmacies. Among the 18 prescriptions presented, 13 could have caused clinically significant adverse drug interactions. Only 18 out of the 64 pharmacies correctly identified the problematic drug combinations. Obviously, a better system is needed.
There are computer systems that can identify dangerous drug interactions, but they aren’t always available. The authors suggest that an ideal system would require:
- software that allows for customization
- standard policies for handling specific interactions
- and drug knowledge databases that are updated frequently.
In the meantime, make sure you tell your doctor about all the medications you are taking, especially if she prescribes a new one.