The World Health Organization (WHO), said medication errors contribute to over 3million deaths globally every year.
The W.H.O Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, in his message to mark this year’s World Patient Safety Day disclosed that medication errors occur most commonly due to weaknesses in medication systems, and are aggravated by shortages of well-trained health staff, and poor working and environmental conditions for delivery of quality health care.
The day is marked on 17 September every year, with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of people-centered care and preventing harm to patients.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti said that this year’s theme, “Medication Safety: Medication Without Harm,” specifically draws attention for the need to improve systems to support safe medication and address unsafe practices.
Dr Moeti noted that consequently, patients’ rights to medication without prejudice can be compromised through inappropriate prescribing, transcribing, dispensing, administration and monitoring practices.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa however warned that administration of surplus medication at home, the purchase of medication from pharmacies on the advice of friends and relatives rather than trained professionals, and the use of old prescriptions to buy medication to treat a current ailment, are all common practices that should be avoided.
According to him, weak medication systems or human factors are the major contributory factors to unsafe practices, with many countries lacking the capacity to detect, evaluate and prevent medicine safety issues. He noted that other contributory factors include fatigue, inadequate knowledge, training, staff shortages, workplace distractions, high workload and limited resources.
Dr. Moeti said that Medication Without Harm is aim to reduce severe avoidable medication-related harm by 50% globally in the next five years, through focused activities and interventions targeting three areas: patients and the public; health care professionals; and medicines, systems and medication practices.
He stated that based on current estimates, US$ 42 billion of total health expenditure worldwide could be averted if medication errors are addressed.
The global campaign’s call to action is “KNOW. CHECK. ASK.” It aims to encourage and empower patients and their caregivers, as well as health care professionals, nurses, physicians, pharmacists, to take a more active role in ensuring safer medication practices, and medication-use processes.