According to one estimate, in any given week four out of every five U.S. adults will use prescription medicines, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, or dietary supplements of some sort, and nearly one-third of adults will take five or more different medications.
Most of the time these medications are beneficial, or at least they cause no harm, but on occasion they do injure the person taking them. Some of these adverse drug events (ADEs), as injuries due to medication are generally called, are inevitable--the more powerful a drug is, the more likely it is to have harmful side effects, for instance--but sometimes the harm is caused by an error in prescribing or taking the medication, and these damages are not inevitable. These errors can be prevented.
At the urging of the Senate Finance Committee, the United States Congress mandated that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sponsor a study by the IOM to address the problem of medication errors.
Preventing Medication Errors puts forward a national agenda for reducing medication errors based on estimates of the incidence and cost of such errors and evidence on the efficacy of various prevention strategies.
The report finds that medication errors are surprisingly common and costly to the nation, and it outlines a comprehensive approach to decreasing the prevalence of these errors. This approach will require changes from doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others in the health care industry, from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other government agencies, from hospitals and other health-care organizations, and from patients.