The World Health Organisation has launched a safety programme aimed at fighting wrong prescription of drugs to patients.
In the Global Patient Safety Challenge on medication, WHO plans to reduce the problem by 50 per cent.
“Every person around the world will at some point in their life take medicine to prevent or treat illness. However, medicine sometimes causes serious harm if taken incorrectly, monitored insufficiently or as the result of an error, accident or communication problems,” read the report released last month.
This is the third patient safety programme that has been launched by WHO after the clean care one in 2005 and the safe surgery saves lives launched in 2008.
The agency called upon countries to take early action to address factors that cause harm due to medical errors.
WHO said it was planning to increase awareness among patients about the risks associated with the improper use of medication.
The cost associated with medication errors is estimated to be one per cent of the total global health expenditure, said the agency.
It noted that health workers and patients can make mistakes that cause severe harm through ordering, prescribing, dispensing, preparing, administering or consuming the wrong medication or the wrong dose at the wrong time.
The organisation says that there is a possibility of avoiding medication errors but through putting up new systems and procedures in place to ensure the right patients get the right medications.
“Medication errors can be caused by health worker fatigue, overcrowding, staff shortages, poor training and the wrong information being given to patients, among other reasons. Any one of these, can cause harm,” said the statement.
WHO, says that most harm is caused by failure of systems in the way care is organised and coordinated, especially when multiple health providers are involved in a patient’s care.
“An organisational culture that routinely implements best practices and that avoids blame when mistakes are made is the best environment for safe care,” it says.
The challenge calls on countries to take early priority action to address these 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.