Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Can Medication Errors Be Reduced?

Have you ever heard about or read reports on people ended up tragically because of wrong medications or inappropriate drugs being prescribed? Would this sound an alarm to you?

In the United States, the medication errors could cost as much as US$177 billion a year because of many unnoticed commonplace errors made by the untrained pharmacists. Such errors could ultimately cause adverse health reactions to the patients.

After studying the effect of a program that trained pharmacists to prevent drug-related errors, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggested that pharmacists spending extra time talking to patients with heart disease about the medications and finding medication errors could significantly reduce mistakes. Their findings were published on April 27, 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

There were 800 patients with heart failure or hypertension (high blood pressure) participated in one of the 2 clinical trials.

One group of patients was assigned with pharmacists who had been trained to brief patients on the proper use of their drugs, to monitor them and to communicate with their doctors to spot errors, whereas the pharmacists for the other group of patients were of no special training. 210 medication errors or harmful side effects were found among the patients.

The most common errors included prescribing patients with a medication that should be avoided in elderly patients, drugs for vaginal yeast infections in women taking antibiotics or prescriptions for multiple products containing the painkiller acetaminophen.

When comparing with the control group, patients getting their medications from the trained pharmacists had a 35 percent lower risk of adverse drug reactions and a 37 percent lower risk of medication errors.

According to the researchers, pharmacists trained at finding medication errors and explaining proper use of medications to patients with complex health conditions could save a 50,000-patient practice about US$600,000 in annual charges.

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