Clarifying adverse drug events: a clinician's guide to terminology, documentation, and reporting

Ann Intern Med. 2004 May 18;140(10):795-801. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-140-10-200405180-00009.


Adverse drug events cause substantial morbidity and mortality, yet they remain underappreciated and misunderstood. The terminology to describe errors and patient harm associated with medications causes much confusion. This article uses the case study of a patient with multiple adverse drug events to clarify key terms, such as adverse event, adverse drug reaction, adverse drug event, medication error, and side effect. The case discussion illustrates clinical approaches to analyzing the causal connection between a suspect drug and an adverse event. Examples and rationale for meaningful documentation of adverse drug events are provided, along with an outline of the types of events that should be reported to regulatory agencies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting Systems*
  • Aged
  • Documentation*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Errors
  • Terminology as Topic*