Medication-related emergency department presentations

Grant ID: EMSS-353R28-2017

Project Summary

In Australia, medication errors result in more than 400,000 visits to general practitioners per year, however the number of patients who present to hospital due to medication-related harm is unclear.

Previous Australian and international research suggests that at least 2% of emergency department (ED) presentations are due to medication-related harm and up to one quarter of those patients require admission to hospital. Importantly, the majority of such presentations are potentially preventable, which means that interventions that target medication safety in the community and adverse events that result in ED presentations could improve patient safety and quality of life, and reduce the burden on emergency and acute health services.

Before we can target strategies designed to reduce medication-related harm in the community that results in patients requiring care in the ED, we need to understand how commonly this occurs, and which patients are at higher risk of possible harm. In this study we will determine how common this problem is, the characteristics of the events and the patients in whom medication-related harm occurs, and also estimate the health service costs of medication-related ED presentations.


The study identified 9.2% of ED presentations at a principal referral hospital in Queensland were due to adverse drug events experienced in the community. In an additional 5% of ED presentations there was evidence of medication events experienced in the community that had not yet caused harm but had the potential to become adverse. The median age of patients was 40 years, with 49.7% being male.

The majority of adverse drug events that lead to ED presentations are preventable and the high proportion of presentations with potential ADEs indicates an opportunity for harm mitigation. Interventions to reduce unintended medication harm in the community are likely to require a coordinated primary, acute and public healthcare response.



- Brown, N.J., Doran, E., Greenslade, J.H., Lukin, B., Cottrell, N., Jaramillo, F., Coombes, I., Donovan, P. and Cullen, L., 2022. Retrospective study of the prevalence and characteristics of adverse drug events in adults who present to an Australian emergency department. Emergency Medicine Australasia.


Amount Awarded


Grant Scheme


Principal Investigator:
Professor Louise Cullen

Co Investigators:
Dr Nathan Brown
A/Prof Jaimi Greenslade
Dr Peter Donovan
Prof Ian Coombes
A/Prof Neil Cottrell
Dr Bill Lukin
A/Prof Anthony Bell

Associate Investigators:
Ms Elizabeth Doran


Collaborating Institutions

CONTACT US +61 7 3112 8668 Suite 1A 34 Sherwood Road Toowong, Qld 4066