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WHO urges stakeholders to reduce unsafe medication practices

by Haruna Gimba

By Asmau Ahmad

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged stakeholders in healthcare delivery to urgently intensify efforts toward reducing medication-related harm.

According to the global health agency, half of all preventable harm in medical care worldwide is medication related, of which a quarter is either severe or life-threatening.

It stressed the global problems of medication harm noting that the aged population is one of the most at-risk groups for medication harm, particularly those taking numerous drugs.

The WHO stated this in anticipation of the 2022 World Patient Safety Day.

The UN health agency said, “Unsafe medication practices and medication errors are one of the main causes of injury and avoidable harm in health-care systems across the world. The elderly population is one of the most at-risk groups for medication harm, especially those taking multiple medications.

“The global cost associated with medication errors has been estimated at US$42 billion annually. Medication errors happen due to systemic issues and/or human factors such as fatigue, poor environmental conditions, or staff shortages which affect prescribing, transcribing, dispensing, administration, and monitoring practices. These errors can result in severe harm, disability, and even death.

“High rates of medication-related harm are also seen in surgical care, intensive care, and emergency medicine,” it said.

The WHO stated that World Patient Safety Day aims to increase understanding among and engagement of the public and motivate countries to promote safety in health care.

It said this year’s commemoration is precisely focused on medication safety with the slogan ‘Medication without Harm’.

“The campaign will also see the consolidation of the on-going WHO Global Patient Safety Challenge: Medication Without Harm, with the aim of reducing avoidable medication-related harm globally,” the WHO added.

It further stated, “Flaws in the systems for prescription are a big contributor to medication-related harm, alongside human error. Evidence has shown that more than half of all medication harm occurs at the stage when medicines are prescribed and when they are being taken by patients due to inadequate monitoring.

“The highest risk category for medication-related harm is antibiotics, but medicines such as sedatives, anti-inflammatories, and heart and blood pressure medication also pose significant risks.”

The global health agency, therefore, said it is encouraging the need for urgent progress in plans to decrease the rate of medication-related harm in key risk areas.

It added that stakeholders need to intensify efforts toward developing plans to reduce medication-related harm at all levels.

“WHO is advocating for urgent improvement in strategies to reduce medication-related harm in key risk areas.

“Furthermore, it is working with partners to develop a set of medication safety technical resources, including a policy brief and medication safety solutions such as medication safety for look-alike sound-alike (LASA) medicines.

“LASA medicines may look or sound similar to each other, either by their generic name, or brand name. They might have similar packaging, similar-sounding names, or similar spellings.”

“WHO is calling on stakeholders to continue efforts to reduce medication-related harm, develop strategies and structures to improve medication safety at local, national, regional and global levels, and make a pledge to adopt the Medication Without Harm Challenge,” the global health agency added.

The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said, “Medicines are powerful tools for protecting health. But medicines that are wrongly prescribed, taken incorrectly or are of poor quality, can cause serious harm. Nobody should be harmed while seeking care.”

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