Attitudes to adverse drug reactions and their reporting among medical practitioners

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South African Medical Journal

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The adverse drug reaction (ADR) reporting rate within the medical profession is exceptionally low, and doctors' approaches and attitudes to ADRs were explored through personal structured interviews. The total sample comprised 104 doctors in private practice, divided into three groups: 59 general practitioners, 26 medical specialists and 19 surgical specialists. Certain differences emerged between the groups. The surgical group observed far fewer ADRs than the other groups and not a single member had ever reported an ADR. A significantly larger number of medical specialists considered it necessary to report an ADR to an outside agency, while general practitioners tended to believe that only newly released medicines required ADR reporting. However, few doctors of any specialty regarded ADR reporting as part of the action they would take in their handling of ADRs in practice. The commonest explanation advanced for the marked underreporting of ADRs was that unusual or serious reactions were very infrequent and the common or trivial ones did not warrant reporting. Apathy and indifference were rated as the next most pertinent influence in non-compliance, while such factors as fear of personal consequences (e.g. criticism, medicolegal action) and uncertainty about what to report were deemed to be relatively unimportant.