Today (29 Mar 2017) the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched a global initiative to reduce severe, avoidable medication-associated harm in all countries by 50% over the next 5 years.

What is a 'medication error?

Specifically, a medication error is "any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer.  Such events may be related to professional practice, health care products, procedures, and systems, including prescribing; order communication; product labelling, packaging, and nomenclature; compounding; dispensing; distribution; administration; education; monitoring; and use." - as defined by the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention (NCCMERP) - USA.

What are the commonest Medication Errors?

- improper dosage of the drug

- taking the wrong drug

- improper route of administration

- omission error

- wrong patient

- poor knowledge of multiple drugs taken together

What causes Medication Errors?

-Illegibly written orders

-dispensing errors

- calculation errors 

- monitoring errors 

-  administration errors 

in a hospital situation, the following factors contribute -

- Personal neglect

- Heavy workload

- Unfamiliarity with medication

-  New staff

-  Complicated order 

- Unfamiliarity with patient’s condition„ 

- Inadequate training

- Physician’s writing on the doctor’s order form is difficult to read or illegible 

- Physician prescribes the wrong dose 

- Misunderstood verbal order 

- Procedure/policy not followed Procedure

What can you do to stay safe ?

You may like to follow instructions as issued by the United States Department of Health and Human Sciences -


- Make sure that all of your doctors know about every medicine you are taking.This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements, such as vitamins and herbs.

- Mention to the doctor the drugs you are allergic to, or not supposed to take because of certain conditions.

- When your doctor writes a prescription for you, make sure you can read it.If possible insist on a printed prescription.

- Ask for information about your medicines in terms you can understand—both when your medicines are prescribed and when you get them:What is the medicine for?

- When you pick up your medicine from the pharmacy, ask: Is this the medicine that my doctor prescribed?If you have any questions about the directions on your medicine labels, ask.Medicine labels can be hard to understand. Ask your pharmacist for the best device to measure your liquid medicine.For example, many people use household teaspoons, which often do not hold a true teaspoon of liquid. Special devices, like marked syringes, help people measure the right dose.Ask for written information about the side effects your medicine could cause.

Hospital Stays

Take control of your medication during your stay in the hospital. It helps if you have someone with you who knows your medical history. Insist on the nurses calling you by name and not 'Baba' or 'Madam' or 'Uncleji'. Ask the nurse what medication is being given to you and why.

WHO has launched the Global Patient Safety Challenge on Medication Safety - this will prevent unnecessary medication errors and ensure that the right medication is given in the right dose, and at the right time. 

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