THE World Health Organization (WHO) is challenging all member-states to work for the reduction of incidents where medicines cause harm, and sometimes death, to people.
In a statement, the WHO said it is launching a global initiative to reduce severe, avoidable medication-associated harm in all countries by 50 percent for the next five years.
"The Global Patient Safety Challenge on Medication Safety aims to address the weaknesses in health systems that lead to medication errors and the severe harm that results," said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan.
The Challenge calls on countries to take early action to address key factors, including medicines with a high risk of harm if used improperly; 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.
"Preventing errors and the harm that results requires putting systems and procedures in place to ensure the right patient receives the right medication at the right dose via the right route at the right time," said Chan.
It should be noted that the challenge is WHO’s third global patient safety challenge, following the Clean Care is Safe Care challenge on hand hygiene in 2005; and the Safe Surgery Saves Lives challenge in 2008.
According to the WHO, medication errors cause at least one death every day and injure approximately 1.3 million people annually in almost all countries.
"Every person around the world will at some point in their life take medicines to prevent or treat illness. However, medicines do sometimes cause serious harm if taken incorrectly, monitored insufficiently or as the result of an error, accident or communication problems," said Chan.
"We all expect to be helped, not harmed, when we take medication," she added.
Aside from the human cost, Chan pointed that medication errors place an enormous and unnecessary strain on health budgets of families, especially those from low- and middle-income countries.
Globally, the WHO said the cost associated with medication errors has been estimated at US$42 billion annually or almost 1 percent of total global health expenditure.
"Preventing errors saves money and saves lives," said Chan.
She said both health workers and patients can make mistakes that could result in severe harm, such as ordering, prescribing, dispensing, preparing, administering, or consuming the wrong medication or the wrong dose at the wrong time.
Medication errors, Chan explained, can be caused by health worker fatigue, overcrowding, staff shortages, poor training, and wrong information being given to patients, among others.
Chan said another reason for medication errors come from systems failures in the way care is organized and coordinated, especially when multiple health providers are involved in a patient’s care. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)