When you were a kid, before you mounted your bike and went out for an afternoon stroll, you strapped on a helmet. When you learned to drive, before you pushed the pedal and sped away, you clicked in your seatbelt. When you started your job, before you took out any spending money, you set aside savings and invested in a few funds.

Your entire life, you’ve been taking the right measures to do one thing: mitigate risks.

If you fell off your bike, your head was safe. If you got into an accident, your body wasn’t bruised or broken. if you ran into hard times, you had money to fall back on. There’s no question that accidents can (and will) happen, but life has shown you that with the right preparation, you can identify and mitigate potential risks that come your way.

You’re already minimizing your own risks, but are you doing the same for your patients?

ADRs: The Biggest Risk of All

The FDA estimates that over 2 million people are hospitalized for adverse drug reactions (ADRs) every year. Of those hospitalized, over 100,000 people die.

These estimates suggest that ADRs are the 4th leading cause of death in the United States, ahead of pulmonary disease, diabetes, AIDs, accidents, and even automobile deaths.

ADRs encompass everything from allergic reactions to rashes to low white blood cell counts; and once set in motion, they can wreak havoc on patients’ health. Sometimes ADRs are caused by provider-administered drugs (usually in ambulatory settings or long-term care facilities).

Other times, though, they are caused by taking or mixing the wrong prescription drugs at home.

Enter the role of the community pharmacist.

Mitigate Risks, Minimize Reactions

As prescription drug experts, community pharmacists have the knowledge and expertise needed to monitor, manage, and prevent adverse drug reactions in their patient bases.

The American Society of Health System-Pharmacists offers guidelines on how to develop a comprehensive ADR program in your pharmacy.

Steps include:

  1. Developing a surveillance system that spans the course of the medication-use process, from start to finish
  2. Developing a reporting system to document each suspected ADR
  3. Developing institutional policies and procedures to notify healthcare providers, patients, and patient representatives of suspected ADRs
  4. Collecting and analyzing specific data related to ADRs, including patient history and details of each ADR
  5. Evaluating causes of ADRs
  6. Categorizing each ADR by type (dose-related, non-dose-related, dose-related and time-related, time-related, withdrawal, and/or failure of therapy)
  7. Continuing to identify and monitor high-risk patients
  8. Identifying and monitoring high-risk drugs

To learn more about ASHP’s Guidelines on ADR Monitoring and Reporting, click here.

The Technology Partner You Need

If you are looking to implement a new ADR program (or improve an existing one), you need the right resources to do it. ASHP makes it clear that monitoring and reporting are the keys to fighting adverse drug reactions; and there’s one tool that can help you do both: your pharmacy software system.

Your software system serves as the home base for all of your pharmacy’s information, including information about patients, drugs, and, when the two don’t mix well, adverse reactions.

Most software systems give you the tools you need to do basic monitoring and reporting, with features like eCare Plans, eMARs, and drug reporting. The best systems, though, offer specific solutions — like medication risk scores — to help you manage adverse reactions more effectively.

Just like a helmet, a seatbelt, or a savings account, medication risk scores can provide your patients with an extra layer of protection against adverse drug events.

Risk scores can help you identify individual risks, alert you of them, and give you the tools you need to manage them in a timely manner. They can be used to manage single drugs or complex medication regimes, which is particularly important for patients enrolled in med sync programs.

How It Works

When a patient comes in with a prescription, your pharmacy software system compiles information about each patient and each drug they are prescribed. This can include everything from patient information to prescription history to specific indicators of whether or not a drug will be effective for (and effectively used by) the patient.

With the right software system, this information can then be quantified and calculated as a risk score.

If a patient has a high risk score, your pharmacy software system can alert you, pinpoint the specific drug causing the elevated risk, and give you the cue to make recommendations for changes. It can also help you to spot potential signs of misuse or abuse.


Not only can your pharmacy software system help you to minimize adverse drug reactions, but it can give you the ability to optimize medication regimens, by having personalized information about each patient and the prescriptions drugs that they take. In the process, it can help improve outcomes and build strong relationships.

Technology is the key to kicking ADRs to the curb — and your pharmacy software system is the most valuable player in the game.

Looking to learn more about medication risk scores and whether or not your pharmacy software system offers them? Compare some of the top vendors, schedule a demo, and find a technology partner that can help you put your plan into action.

Adverse drug reactions continue to be one of the most pressing problems in the healthcare system, but you have the power to fight back.