Objective: To examine the extent of drug-related hospital admissions in Australia by reviewing Australian studies published between 1988 and 1996.
Data sources and study selection: The terms "drug-related", "admissions", "readmissions", "hospitalisation", "hospitalization" and "iatrogenic" were used to search MEDLINE and Australian Public Affairs Information Service databases. The Australian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy and conference proceedings of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists and the Australasian Pharmaceutical Science Association were searched manually. Studies were included if they were Australian, had the primary aim of identifying drug-related admissions, and had at least one clinical pharmacist or medical practitioner review the admissions.
Data extraction: Total number of admissions assessed; proportion considered drug-related; drug groups implicated; and proportion considered avoidable.
Data synthesis: 14 studies were identified; 2.4%-3.6% of all hospital admissions were reported to be drug-related. 6%-7% of emergency admissions, 12% of all admissions to medical wards and 15%-22% of all emergency admissions among the elderly were drug related. Between 32% and 69% of drug-related admissions were reported as definitely or possibly preventable. Drug groups most commonly implicated were cytotoxics, cardiovascular agents, antihypertensives, anticoagulants and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Conclusion: Drug-related hospital admissions are a significant and expensive public health problem in Australia, and approximately half were considered possibly or probably preventable.