Senators call for joint government task force on adverse drug reactions

Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) requested Thursday that the Health and Human Services Department convene a joint task force with other agencies to help identify patients at risk for adverse drug reactions.

The request was sparked by a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that found that two-thirds of hospitalizations related to drug reactions stem from four common drug medications: warfarin, insulin, oral anti-platelet agents and oral hypoglycemic agents. The task force would be charged with proposing ways to reduce unnecessary hospitalizations, such as easier-to-understand patient medication guides, care transition that helps patients understand and take their medications, coordination of electronic health records and e-prescribing.

It seems clear that action to better educate providers and patients about these common medications and the potential for inappropriate utilization could significantly reduce the number of hospitalizations, the senators wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. While you are already undertaking efforts to reduce costs in the health care system, we believe that, in light of this compelling data, the Department can do more to coordinate and ensure the adverse events of these everyday drugs prescribed to our Medicare beneficiaries become the exception, rather than the norm.