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Final Honours student, from the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Science and the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, Harrison France, has recently been awarded first place in the IUPHAR ( International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology) Student Research Poster Competition 2022 by the British Pharmacological Society for his research on preventable deaths involving medicines.

FHS student, Harrison Ford, in a field of sunflowers

Following this national award, the IUPHAR then awarded Harrison third place in the overall international competition, as part of World Smart Medication Day.

The poster, "Preventable Deaths Involving Medicines: A Systematic Analysis of Coroners’ Case Reports in England and Wales Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic" can be found here.

Details of Harrison's research can also be found below:

Background

Medicines cause over 1700 preventable deaths annually in England alone. It is unknown if, and how, this was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Coroner Prevention of Future Death reports (PFDs) provide a way to learn from these deaths and take action to prevent recurrence. In PFDs, coroners highlight their concerns to organisations, who then have a duty to respond and act. We, therefore, used these reports to compare (i) drug types and (ii) coroners’ concerns listed in medicines-related PFDs before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to identify changes in these parameters that practitioners and policymakers might address.

Methods

We systematically screened all 3785 PFDs published between 1 July 2013 and 28 February 2022, including reports where deaths were caused or contributed to by medicines (defined as biologically active compounds taken to modify body function), and extracted case-specific data from these reports. We split cases by date of death to produce pre-pandemic and pandemic groups. We defined medicine classes using the British National Formulary listings, and used directed content analysis to determine common themes of concerns.

Results

Medicines contributed to death in 18.6% of PFDs, representing 19740 years of life lost. Most medicine classes contributed to a similar proportion of deaths before and during the pandemic, with opioids (23.1% pre-pandemic, 26.4% pandemic) remaining the most common. Coroners’ concerns related to failures to learn from past events (2.3% pre-pandemic, 7.5% pandemic) and inappropriate medicine dosage (2.5% pre-pandemic, 5.0% pandemic) increased by the greatest factor. Generally, concerns involving human factors increased in prevalence, while group failings became less common.

Conclusions

Pandemic conditions did not alter the types of drugs that contributed to preventable deaths in England and Wales, but changed the failings causing these preventable deaths. During the pandemic, more deaths were related to human errors and fewer PFDs highlighted systemic issues. This may be due to a lack of guidance, preventing criticism. Our findings highlight key areas of which clinical pharmacologists should be aware of, regarding prescribing or medication during pandemics, to reduce preventable deaths.

 

> About the IUPHAR

> About World Smart Medication Day