WHO seeks urgent action for countries to achieve medication without harm

Globally, half of all preventable harm in medical care is medication related, a quarter of which is severe or life-threatening.

In the lead up to World Patient Safety Day on 17 September 2022, WHO is emphasizing the global burden of medication harm. The elderly population is one of the most at-risk groups of medication harm, especially those taking multiple medications.

High rates of medication-related harm are also seen in surgical care, intensive care and emergency medicine.

“Medicines are powerful tools for protecting health. But medicines that are wrongly prescribed, taken incorrectly or are of poor quality, can cause serious harm,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Nobody should be harmed while seeking care.”

Unsafe medication practices and medication errors are one of the main causes of injury and avoidable harm in health-care systems across the world. The global cost associated with medication errors has been estimated at US$42 billion annually.

Medication errors happen due to systemic issues and/or human factors such as fatigue, poor environmental conditions or staff shortages which affect prescribing, transcribing, dispensing, administration and monitoring practices. These errors can result in severe harm, disability and even death.

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