WHO Announces Effort to Reduce Medication Errors

World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland. Getty Images.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced a new global initiative earlier this month, one that aims to halve the rate of medication errors by 2022. The initiative, The Global Patient Safety Challenge on Medication Safety will combat medication errors by:

  • Addressing weakness and flaws in how drugs are prescribed, distributed, and consumed
  • Providing education on safer and more effective prescribing habits and methods
  • Increasing patient and provider awareness on the dangers of medication errors

“Most harm arises from systems failures in the way care is organized and coordinated,” the WHO wrote in a press release. “Especially when multiple health providers are involved in a patient’s care. An organizational culture that routinely implements best practices and that avoids blame when mistakes are made is the best environment for safe care.”

In the U.S., 1.3 million people are injured annually due to medication errors. Worldwide, medication errors cause at least one death per day and cost an estimated $43 billion annually (1% of global ehalth expenditures). Rates of medication-related adverse events are similar regardless of whether one is in a high-, middle-, or low-income nation. However, in less wealthy nations, the impact of these events are about twice as much in terms of the number of years of healthy life lost.

“We all expect to be helped, not harmed, when we take medication,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general. “Apart from the human cost, medication errors place an enormous and unnecessary strain on health budgets. Preventing errors saves money and saves lives.”

This is WHO’s third global patient safety challenge, following the Clean Care is Safe Care challenge on hand hygiene in 2005 and the Safe Surgery Saves Lives challenge in 2008.