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Few Doctors Trained To Look For Adverse Drug Reactions

by Beth Porter

Less than 4 percent of med schools make training mandatory
WASHINGTON -- Although studies have reported that adverse drug reactions may cause more than 100,000 deaths annually in the United States, at many medical schools little attention is given to recognizing and reporting adverse drug reactions.

The Georgetown University study also found that residents -- newly minted physicians in specialty training -- receive only a modest amount of education in this area. "The lack of time dedicated to clinical pharmacology and adverse drug reactions curriculum seems out of proportion to their importance to society and health care," said authors of the study, published in the February issue of Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics.

The researchers surveyed 105 directors of third-year internal medicine clerkships (programs for medical students), and the directors of 420 internal medicine residency programs (post-MD degree training), choosing internal medicine programs because "internal medicine programs train future physicians to care for patients with complex medical problems usually necessitating use of multiple medications," and "This type of patient would be prone to experiencing an adverse drug reaction."

Each program director completed a two-page survey that asked questions about the percentage of their institution's curriculum dedicated to adverse drug reactions or interactions. They were also asked about their familiarity with a widely publicized Institute of Medicine report on medical errors.

The Georgetown study found less than half of the medical schools offered education in clinical pharmacology or adverse drug reactions to third- and fourth-year medical students. Even at these schools, only eight percent made the training mandatory.

Educators have little incentive to teach clinical pharmacology because it is not required in the medical licensing examinations that all American physicians must pass -- although studies show that involving clinical pharmacists as part of the health care team results in improvements in health care outcome.

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Albion Monitor March 30, 2002 (

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