Medication Errors Kill Millions Annually – WHO


Medication errors kill and injure millions of people while an estimated 42 billion dollars is lost annually, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday.

The Director-General of  WHO, Margaret Chan,  at a  new campaign, “ Global Patient Safety Challenge on Medication Safety,’’  said  that  medicines should fulfil their real purpose to help people and  not harm them.

Chan said the campaign was seeking  to reduce severe and  avoidable medication-associated damage across the globe by half over the next five years.

“According to estimates, the global cost associated with medication errors has been estimated at 42 billion dollars annually or almost one per cent of total global health expenditure.

“In terms of impact on the health of people, for instance in the United States, medication errors cause at least one death every day and injure approximately 1.3 million people annually,” she said.

The WHO chief added: “We all expect to be helped, not harmed, when we take medication.

“Apart from the human cost, medication errors place an enormous and unnecessary strain on health budgets. Preventing errors saves money and saves lives.’’

Sir Liam Donaldson, the WHO Envoy for Patient Safety, said “over the years, I have spoken to many people who have lost loved ones to medication-related errors.

“Their stories, their quiet dignity and their acceptance of situations that should never have arisen have moved me deeply.

“It is to the memories of all those who have died due to incidents of unsafe care that this challenge should be dedicated.’’

While low- and middle-income countries are estimated to have similar rates of medication-related adverse events to high-income countries, the impact is about twice as much in terms of the number of years of healthy life lost.

WHO said that many countries lack  good data, a development  that the new initiative would  attempt to address.

The initiative will also improve the way medicines are prescribed, distributed and consumed, and increase awareness among patients about the risks associated with   improper use of medication.

It also urged countries to take early priority action to address key factors, including medicines with a high risk of harm if used improperly.

Other priorities are patients who take multiple medications for different diseases and conditions, and patients going through transitions of care, in order to reduce medication errors and harm to patients.

The actions in the new campaign will focus on four areas: patients and the public, health care professionals, medicines as products, and systems and practices of medication.

The initiative also aims to make improvements in each stage of the medication use process,  including prescribing, dispensing, administering, monitoring and use.

The UN health agency will disseminate guidance  and develop strategies, plans and tools to ensure that the medication process has the safety of patients at its core  in all health care facilities