Analysis of potential drug-drug interactions in medical intensive care unit patients

Pharmacotherapy. 2014 Mar;34(3):213-9. doi: 10.1002/phar.1395. Epub 2014 Jan 4.


Objective: To describe the frequency and type of potential drug-drug interactions (pDDIs) in a general intensive care unit (ICU) and to make recommendations to improve the management of these pDDIs.

Design: Retrospective observational study.

Setting: General ICU of a tertiary care hospital.

Subjects: All patients admitted for more than 24 hours between May 2009 and December 2010 who were prescribed at least one medication.

Measurement and main results: Based on the G-Standaard, the Dutch national drug database, pDDIs were identified and classified into categories of potential clinical outcome and management advice. In total, 35,784 medication episodes were identified, resulting in 2887 pDDIs (8.1%). These 2887 pDDIs occurred in 1659 patients for a mean frequency of 1.7 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.6-1.9) pDDIs per patient. Overall, 54% of the patients experienced at least one pDDI with pDDIs present during 27% of all ICU admission days. All pDDIs could be reconstructed using 81 of the 358 (23%) relevant unique pDDI pairs described in the G-Standaard. The most frequently occurring potential clinical consequence was an increased risk of side effects or toxicity (91% of the pDDIs) such as electrolyte disturbances and masking of hypoglycemia. The most important advised management strategy was monitoring (81%), consisting of monitoring of laboratory values (52%), clinical monitoring of toxicity or effectiveness (48%), or monitoring of physical parameters such as electrocardiogram and blood pressure (11%).

Conclusion: Potential drug-drug interactions occur in 54% of all ICU patients, which is two times more than the rate seen in patients on general wards. A limited set of 20 pDDI pairs is responsible for more than 90% of all pDDIs. Therefore, it is worthwhile to develop guidelines for the management of these specific pDDIs. As the vast majority of the interactions can be managed by monitoring, advanced clinical decision support systems linking laboratory data to prescription data may be an effective risk management strategy.

Keywords: adverse drug event; drug interaction database; intensive care unit; medication safety; potential drug-drug interaction; risk management.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Databases, Factual / trends
  • Drug Interactions* / physiology
  • Drug Monitoring / methods
  • Drug Monitoring / standards*
  • Drug Monitoring / trends*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / trends*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / standards*
  • Intensive Care Units / trends*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult