Objective: To analyze the frequency and factors associated with drug change in a sample of patients referred to hospital by their general practitioner.
Methods: This observational study is based on a chart review of 100 consecutively recruited patients with a chronic disease who were referred to the general internal medicine wards in each of 3 district general hospitals in Germany (total 300 patients). The frequency of drug cancellation, replacement, dosage alteration, change in manufacturer and of commencing treatment with a new drug were recorded.
Results: Half of the drugs used in chronic treatment (644/1,330) and prescribed by general practitioners were continued during hospitalization. The fraction canceled was 36%. In the rest of the drugs in this group, there were some minor changes carried out by the hospital. On the day of the drug survey, a total of 1,572 drugs were being taken by the patients and 724 of these drugs were newly prescribed by hospital. Only 13 patients experienced no change to their drug regimen during their stay in hospital. In more than 60% of patients (184/300), there were 3 or more changes made in their drug regimen. The rate of drug cancellation for antihypertensive and cardiac drugs in patients referred to hospital for cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular problems did not differ.
Conclusion: During hospitalization, nearly every patient is confronted with some form of drug change. Of major concern is the high rate of drug change affecting drugs being taken for diseases other than that associated with the hospitalization. Hospital drug policy should encourage clinicians to continue drug regimens in newly admitted patients whenever medically appropriate and caution clinicians against making unnecessary changes to drug regimens prescribed by general practitioners.