Background We reviewed Australian observational studies on acute poisoning, using an epidemiological framework, to characterise epidemiological data reported on the host, exposure and environment over time. To identify opportunities for methods and data source development for poisoning prevention.
Methods Scoping review of peer-reviewed observational studies published between 1960 and 2019 reporting acute drug and chemical poisonings in a defined cohort within Australia using Embase, MEDLINE and Informit.
Results We identified 11,038 articles and 394 were included. Almost half the studies had a population from a single city/district. Most studies focused on opioids (25%), paracetamol (9%) and amphetamines (8%). Age and sex (>80%) were well reported. Ethnicity, geographical remoteness and setting of exposure were rarely reported (<5%). Individual substance was reported in two-thirds of studies but product, dose and route was rarely reported (<10%). No improvements in reporting were seen over time and few studies used linked data. Data sources included: coronial (29%), hospital medical records (23%), poisons centres (20%), toxicology units (20%), administrative mortality data (14%).
Conclusions We found gaps in understanding of who was affected by poisoning and environmental information on where the exposure occurred. A comprehensive understanding of the agent responsible for poisoning is poorly understood due to codeset limitations in datasets, except for a few substances. Even for those, limited information is available on the product, dose and route which has implications for control.
Learning Outcomes Policymakers, data custodians and researchers in poisoning epidemiology should prioritise improvements in known deficiencies such as creating a national minimum dataset.
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