Study reveals 1 in 5 physicians not up-to-date on drug safety risks

Doctors have a duty to their patients to act according to acceptable standards in their medical practice. This care includes keeping up-to-date on risks associated with certain drugs they prescribe to patients-particularly ones that have been on the FDA radar.

However, according to a recent survey, many neurologists-those that specialize in the practice of neurological disorders affecting the human nervous system-aren't up-to-date on the safety risks of certain epilepsy drugs.

Specifics of the survey

Approximately 500 neurologists took part in a survey conducted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and recently published in an online medical journal called Epilepsy.

During the months of March 2012 and July 2012, various neurologists were asked questions about certain epilepsy drugs. One specific question related to the doctors' knowledge about the safety risks of these drugs that were recently identified by the FDA. The safety risks in question included heightened suicidal thoughts, hypersensitivity reactions, and increased risk of birth defects in mothers taking the medication.

Results reveal lack of knowledge, system inadequacy

The results revealed that about one in five neurologists were unaware of any or all of these risks. Without this knowledge, it's likely many neurologists unknowingly put patients' lives at risk.

However, physicians aren't necessarily the only ones to blame.

Professor of Neurology and study leader, Dr. Gregory Krauss, indicates that there is presently no one-stop-shop for neurologists to get updated information about these or any other drugs. Some receive updates via email, or through journals or continuing education courses, but it's not consistent. And, the FDA doesn't have a system in place to update doctors either.

As a result, these neurologists and other physicians are not getting the information they need to make informed decisions on which medications to prescribe to patients.

It's only when the FDA issues black box warnings doctors are notified of a serious danger of a drug. But this is only for serious life-threatening, high risk medications.

The need for more oversight, communication

It's evident more is needed to make sure information about the safety risks of drugs, like the epilepsy medications currently under investigation by the FDA, is being communicated to doctors and the medical community.

While it's true the procedures to notify doctors of drug risks needs a revamp, physicians still have a duty to make sure they aren't putting patients' lives at risk.

Legal recourse

Fortunately, legal recourse is available to those who suffered harm as a result of a medication error. Individuals are encouraged to consult with a medical malpractice lawyer who understands the intricate areas of the law for advice.