Reporting, Monitoring, and Handling of Adverse Drug Reactions in Australia: Scoping Review

JMIR Public Health Surveill. 2023 Jan 16:9:e40080. doi: 10.2196/40080.


Background: Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are unintended consequences of medication use and may result in hospitalizations or deaths. Timely reporting of ADRs to regulators is essential for drug monitoring, research, and maintaining patient safety, but it has not been standardized in Australia.

Objective: We sought to explore the ways that ADRs are monitored or reported in Australia. We reviewed how consumers and health care professionals participate in ADR monitoring and reporting.

Methods: The Arksey and O'Malley framework provided a methodology to sort the data according to key themes and issues. Web of Science, Scopus, Embase, PubMed, CINAHL, and Computer & Applied Sciences Complete databases were used to extract articles published from 2010 to 2021. Two reviewers screened the papers for eligibility, extracted key data, and provided descriptive analysis of the data.

Results: Seven articles met the inclusion criteria. The Adverse Medicine Events Line (telephone reporting service) was introduced in 2003 to support consumer reporting of ADRs; however, only 10.4% of consumers were aware of ADR reporting schemes. Consumers who experience side effects were more likely to report ADRs to their doctors or pharmacists than to the drug manufacturer. The documentation of ADR reports in hospital electronic health records showed that nurses and pharmacists were significantly less likely than doctors to omit the description of the drug reaction, and pharmacists were significantly more likely to enter the correct classification of the drug reaction than doctors. Review and analysis of all ADR reports submitted to the Therapeutic Goods Administration highlighted a decline in physician contribution from 28% of ADR reporting in 2003 to 4% in 2016; however, within this same time period, hospital and community pharmacists were a major source of ADR reporting (ie, 16%). In 2014, there was an increase in ADR reporting by community pharmacists following the introduction of the GuildLink ADR web-based reporting system; however, a year later, the reporting levels dropped. In 2018, the Therapeutic Goods Administration introduced a black triangle scheme on the packaging of newly approved medicines, to remind and encourage ADR reporting on new medicines, but this was only marginally successful at increasing the quantity of ADR reports.

Conclusions: Despite the existence of national and international guidelines for ADR reporting and management, there is substantial interinstitutional variability in the standards of ADR reporting among individual health care facilities. There is room for increased ADR reporting rates among consumers and health care professionals. A thorough assessment of the barriers and enablers to ADR reporting at the primary health care institutional levels is essential. Interventions to increase ADR reporting, for example, the black triangle scheme (alert or awareness) or GuildLink (digital health), have only had marginal effects and may benefit from further improvement revisions and awareness programs.

Keywords: adverse drug reactions; digital health; pharmacovigilance; primary care.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting Systems*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions* / epidemiology
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Pharmacovigilance