Safer use of medicines by preventing medication errors

News 27/11/2015

EMA makes new webpage and good practice guide available

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has published a good practice guide on medication errors to improve the reporting, evaluation and prevention of medication errors by regulatory authorities and pharmaceutical industry throughout the EU. In parallel, EMA has launched a webpage highlighting measures recommended by the Agency to prevent medication errors for specific medicines. This page will include clear and easy-to-understand information to patients and healthcare professionals to further promote the safe use of medicines.

A medication error is a mistake in the use of a medicine that can be harmful for a patient. Medication errors can occur for many reasons at the time of prescribing, dispensing, storing, preparation or administration of a medicine. It is estimated that among hospitalised patients 18.7% to 56% of adverse events are caused by medication errors[1].

In the European Union (EU), national competent authorities and EMA play a key role in identifying and reducing the risk of medication errors before and after the authorisation of a medicine. For all medicines the presentation, labelling and leaflet are designed to prevent medication errors. However, in some cases, additional measures are needed to ensure that the medicine is used correctly, for example by introducing educational programmes for healthcare professionals and patients. EMA will now systematically communicate on any additional measure decided upon at EU level to prevent medication errors. The new webpage will offer a reference point to patients and healthcare professionals for key advice on how to prevent medication errors in order to ensure the safe use of medicines.

Helping regulatory authorities and pharmaceutical industry prevent medication errors: the EMA good practice guide

Reporting medication errors is fundamental to prevent further errors. Regulatory authorities review medication error reports as part of a medicine's standard safety monitoring.

Pharmaceutical companies and national competent authorities in EU Members States are legally obliged to enter all suspected serious adverse reactions resulting from medication errors that occur in the EU into EudraVigilance, the EU adverse reaction collection and management system.

The good practice guide on medication errors published today complements the guideline on good pharmacovigilance practices (GVP) and other existing guidelines published by the Agency.

It consists of two parts: the first part details how suspected adverse reactions that are caused by medication errors should be recorded, coded, reported and assessed. The goal is to improve reporting and to learn from medication errors for the benefit of public health.

The second part of the guide clarifies key principles of risk management planning in relation to medication errors. It describes the main sources and types of medication errors and proposes options to minimise the risk of medication errors throughout the lifespan of a medicine.

The guide was released for public consultation from 14 April 2015 to 14 June 2015. It is one of the key deliverables of the EMA/Heads of Medicines Agencies (HMA) PDF icon joint action plan on medication errors agreed in 2013.

[1] von Laue N, Schwappach D, Koeck C. The epidemiology of preventable adverse drug events: a review of the literature. Wien Klin Wochenschr 2003; 115:407-15.

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