Readmissions and adverse drug reactions in internal medicine: the economic impact

J Intern Med. 2004 Jun;255(6):653-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.2004.01326.x.


Background: Recent studies show that nearly half of the hospitalized patients are readmitted within 6 months from discharge. No data exist about the relationship between adverse drug reactions (ADRs) and readmittance to a department of internal medicine.

Objectives: The primary aims of the study were to determine if ADRs could be used as predictors for recurrent hospitalizations in internal medicine and to evaluate the economic impact of ADRs on hospitalization costs.

Design and setting: A cohort-based, prospective, 18-month pharmacoepidemiological survey was conducted in the Department I of Internal Medicine at the University Hospital of Erlangen. All patients were intensively monitored for ADRs by a pharmacoepidemiological team. ADRs were evaluated for their offending drugs, probability, severity, preventability and classified by WHO-ART. During a 6-month period ADR-positive patients were matched to non-ADR patients applying diagnosis-related group categorization in order to measure the impact of ADRs on the duration and frequency of hospitalization.

Results: Of 1000 admissions 424 patients had single admissions and 206 patients had recurrent readmissions (min 1, max 9). The prevalence of readmissions was 37% (n = 370). In 145 (23%) of 630 patients, 305 ADRs were observed. The ADR incidence was similar in first admissions and readmissions. ADRs were not found to predict further readmissions and lack of ADRs did not preclude readmissions. ADRs caused hospitalizations in 6.2% of first admissions and in 4.2% of readmissions. According to the Schumock algorithm 135 (44.3%) ADRs were found to be preventable. The occurrence and numbers of ADRs per admission were found to prolong hospitalization period significantly (r = 0.48 and 0.51, P < 0.001, n = 135). Of 9107 treatment days 20% were caused by in-house (1130 days) and community-acquired ADRs (669 days). In admissions and readmissions 11% (>973 days) of all treatment days were judged to be preventable.

Conclusions: Intensified drug monitoring supported by information technology in internal medicine is essential for early detecting and prevention of ADRs and saving hospital resources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Infective Agents / adverse effects
  • Cardiovascular Agents / adverse effects
  • Central Nervous System Agents / adverse effects
  • Drug Therapy / economics
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Electrolytes / adverse effects
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / adverse effects
  • Hormones / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Readmission / economics*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Time Factors


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Cardiovascular Agents
  • Central Nervous System Agents
  • Electrolytes
  • Gastrointestinal Agents
  • Hormones