Drug interactions make hospital intensive care units dangerous places for patients. A month long study in a medical intensive care unit uncovered almost two drug-drug interactions per patient. At least one-fourth of the interactions were judged to be serious if not life-threatening.
Most people assume that patients in intensive care settings are protected by attentive scrutiny of their medications. The study found, however, that alert fatigue interferes with pharmacists and physicians catching such interactions. Alert fatigue results when computer warnings about interactions crop up frequently and are overridden by hospital staff.
Drugs most often involved in major interactions were those to prevent blood clots and control high blood pressure. This research confirms previous findings that nearly three fourths of ICU patients receive incompatible combinations of medicines. Because patients in the ICU are often too ill to watch out for themselves, they need advocates to ask questions and be vigilant for them.
[International Journal of Pharmacy Practice, online, June 7, 2012]