Millions getting sick or dying from medication mistakes - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Millions getting sick or dying from medication mistakes

WASHINGTON. - Every year, 4 million people end up in the emergency room or a doctor's office because they got the wrong medicine or the wrong dose and the Institute of Medicine says 1.5 million of these mistakes are preventable.

It's the Food and Drug Administration's job to make sure medicines are safe, but now the agency is concerned about whether patients are taking their medicines as directed.

"We have an overarching responsibility to assure that medicines are used safely," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg.

The FDA's new "Safe Use Initiative" will hold public meetings to ask doctors, pharmacists, patients, drug makers and others about solutions to problems such as

  • patients overdosing on acetaminophen when they mix over-the-counter and prescription drugs
  • doctors prescribing the wrong medicine
  • pharmacists giving the wrong pill
  • parents who don't properly measure liquid medications for their kids.

"Even if we have that dosing device attached to the bottle, some parents will still reach for the teaspoon," said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

The FDA has made efforts to prevent errors like putting black box warnings on drugs, but officials admit even health care workers don't always read them.

"Simply putting out a warning label does not ensure that information will necessarily translate into the safe and effective use," said Hamburg.

The agency wants to make a list of drugs most likely to be misused, identify exactly how that happens, create specific solutions and measure whether those solutions are working.

The FDA's commissioner says this effort is an attempt to be proactive; to go beyond just regulating medicines and make sure people are using them safely.

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