WHO Launches Program to Reduce Medication Errors

March 31, 2017

How a program hopes to cut errors in half.

Medication errors cost an estimated $42 billion worldwide each year. The World Health Organization is launching a program to combat such errors.

The initiative is called the Global Patient Safety Challenge on Medication Safety. Its goal is to address the weaknesses in health systems that allow medication errors to occur, and it has laid out ways to improve how medications are prescribed, distributed, and taken.

“We all expect to be helped, not harmed, when we take medication," said Margaret Chan, MD, Director-General of WHO, said in a statement.  "Apart from the human cost, medication errors place an enormous and unnecessary strain on health budgets. Preventing errors saves money and saves lives."

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WHO states that, in the United States alone, there is at least one death per day and 1.3 million people injured annually due to medication errors. Globally, the annual cost associated with medication errors has been estimated at $42 billion, or almost 1% of total global health spending.

“[A]ll medication errors are potentially avoidable. 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,” the WHO statement said.

The challenge calls for actions that focus on four areas: patients and the public; health care professionals; medicines as products; and systems and practices of medication.

You can read more on the Global Patient Safety Challenge on Medication Safety here, where there are links to educational materials.