Medication Safety Update: Preventing Errors and Adverse Drug Reactions

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The “Oath of a Pharmacist” that is recited at pharmacy school graduations emphasizes the importance of medication safety in the profession. The passage says, “I will apply my knowledge, experience, and skills to the best of my ability to assure optimal outcomes for my patients.” Despite these efforts, preventable adverse events related to medications do occur, and all health care professionals can play an integral role in reducing them. Health care professionals need a broad understanding of the issues surrounding medication errors and adverse drug events (ADEs) in order to improve patient safety. Medication errors can occur at any step from prescribing to dispensing a medication, as well as during administration by a patient or caregiver. An ADE occurs when a patient experiences harm from a medication. Medication errors that reach patients and cause any amount of harm are termed preventable ADEs.

In 2018, 59 new drugs were approved – the greatest number of approvals in over 20 years. Staying abreast of medication information is a daunting task; however, it is an essential part of preventing medication-related problems. An interdisciplinary approach involving physicians, pharmacists, nurses, patients, and other care providers is key to promoting medication safety in the outpatient setting.

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