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Over 3 million die from medication errors annually – WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that medication errors contribute to over three million deaths every year. The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr…

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that medication errors contribute to over three million deaths every year.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, stated this Friday in her statement to mark this year’s World Patient Safety Day . The theme of this year’s commemoration is “Medication Safety: Medication Without Harm”.
She said the situation was exacerbated by overwhelmed health systems during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said, “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.
“Consequently, patients’ rights to medication without prejudice can be compromised through inappropriate prescribing, transcribing, dispensing, administration and monitoring practices.
“Global estimates show that medication errors contribute to over 3 million deaths every year, a situation which has been exacerbated by overwhelmed health systems during the COVID-19 pandemic. About one in every four cases of preventable medication harm is clinically severe, or life-threatening.”
She said about one in every four cases of preventable medication harm is clinically severe, or life-threatening.
Moeti said while there is limited data for Africa, it is generally acknowledged that there is a high magnitude of unsafe medication practices.
According to her, among low-and middle-income countries, the African region has the highest prevalence of substandard and counterfeit medicines (18.7 per cent).
She said 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.
The WHO regional boss said based on current estimates, US$42 billion of total health expenditure worldwide could be averted if medication errors were addressed.
“Medication Without Harm aims to reduce severe avoidable medication-related harm by 50 per cent 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,” she said.
She said the global health body is working with member states to implement the WHO Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021–2030.