Medication Errors Kill Thousands Each Year According to FDA

Members of Congress were told that an estimated 7,000 people die each year as a result of medication errors. "No drug is 100 percent safe. No pharmacologically active medicine exists that does not have side effects," Dr. Janet Woodcock, a Food and Drug Administration official, told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Although most drug reactions are not fatal, the United States spends more than $75 billion a year on adverse drug reactions, according to Woodstock. In 1998, nearly 2.7 billion prescriptions were filled in the United States. Roughly half of all Americans take prescription drugs each year, spending $100 billion.

In January 2000, the General Accounting Office found that between 25 and 50 percent of all adverse drug incidents among hospital patients resulted from medical errors. Medication errors are defined by the FDA as "mistakes in the medication prescribing and dispensing process."

The FDA's annual budget for clinical research into drug reactions is about $1 million a year, but some experts believe at least $50 million is needed to enhance drug safety programs. Woodcock urged lawmakers to increase the FDA budget to create better systems of reporting and examining medication errors and drug reactions.

Pharmacists, doctors and patients all contribute to medication errors. Pharmacists make mistakes in reading prescriptions, calculating doses or dispensing the wrong drug because of similarities in their names. Doctors sometimes prescribe the wrong drug, write illegibly or order the wrong dosage. Patients frequently fail to follow instructions or fail to inform their doctors of potentially conflicting medications.

Several approaches to reduce medication errors are being implemented by the FDA, including encouraging physicians to write their prescriptions on computers. The agency also suggests renaming and repackaging drugs with similar names and packages. It also suggests that pharmacists play a greater role in advising doctors what drugs to prescribe.

According to Dr. Richard Platt, a professor of ambulatory care and prevention at Harvard Medical School, "The number of adverse drug reactions has increased because of a rising elderly population that is more susceptible to negative drug effects."

The quality of health care became a prominent issue last fall after the Institute of Medicine released a study that showed nearly 100,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. The Institute of Medicine report released last fall recommended mandatory reporting to state agencies; however, the panel of medical experts said state agencies lack the expertise to examine the reports appropriately.

Chiropractors do NOT prescribe drugs. (Aren't you glad there is an effective form of healthcare that is drugless?)

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