Objectives: Voluntary adverse drug reaction (ADR) reporting is fundamental to medical drug safety surveillance; however, substantial under-reporting exists and is the main limitation of the system. This study sought to identify the knowledge- and attitude-related factors associated with ADR reporting by physicians in Northern Portugal.
Methods: Case-control study covering a population of National Health Service medical practitioners. The 88 cases comprised physicians who had reported at least one ADR to the drug surveillance unit from the year 2000 to the date of enrolment in the study. The 771 controls were randomly selected from among the remaining physicians. All interviews were conducted using a self-administered questionnaire. Knowledge and attitudes regarding spontaneous ADR reporting were based on Inman's 'seven deadly sins'. Agreement with the questions included in the questionnaire was measured using a horizontal, continuous visual analogue scale, which was unnumbered. Recorded answers were read in a range from zero (total disagreement) to ten (total agreement). We used logistic regression to determine the ADR reporting adjusted odds ratio (ORadj) for a change in exposure corresponding to the interquartile range for each attitude.
Results: A total of 397 questionnaires were received from 731 eligible practitioners (54.3%). Physicians who worked in primary versus hospital care (ORadj 7.74 [95% CI 1.85, 32.30]) and in general medicine (ORadj 1.05 [95% CI 0.30, 3.69]) versus medical specialities were more likely to report ADRs. In contrast, physicians working in the medical-surgical/surgical fields were significantly less likely to report ADRs compared with medical specialists (ORadj 0.10 [95% CI 0.02, 0.46]). Attitudes to ADRs were strongly associated with reporting probability. Hence, an interquartile decrease in any of the following attitudes increased the probability of reporting by: (i) 87% (p < 0.05) for complacency (the belief that really serious ADRs are well documented by the time a drug is marketed); (ii) 109% (p < 0.01) for insecurity (the belief that it is nearly impossible to determine whether a drug is responsible for a particular adverse reaction); (iii) 143% (p < 0.001) for diffidence (the belief that one would only report an ADR if one were sure that it was related to the use of a particular drug); (iv) 220% (p < 0.001) for indifference (the belief that the one case an individual doctor might see could not contribute to medical knowledge); and (v) 71% (p < 0.05) for ignorance (the belief that it is only necessary to report serious or unexpected ADRs).
Conclusion: This study shows that there are attitudes strongly associated with under-reporting. The implementation of purpose-designed educational interventions based on the attitudes identified in this study may serve to improve reporting substantially.