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Medication Errors Injure 1.5 Million Americans a Year

Mistakes cost more than $3.5 billion annually, Institute of Medicine report states

FRIDAY, July 21 (HealthDay News) -- Medication errors injure at least 1.5 million Americans annually, costing the nation more than $3.5 billion a year, according to an Institute of Medicine report released Thursday. In hospitals alone, that translates into an average of one medication error per patient per day.

"Errors in medication happen all too frequently, but they are not unavoidable," Harvey Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D., president of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), said at a news conference Thursday. "There's much that can be done and, indeed, should be done to reduce the frequency and mitigate the harm that may come from medication errors."

The IOM report, Preventing Medication Errors, recommends a series of remedial actions, including getting patients to be more involved in their own health care and conducting more research on the problem. Having all prescriptions filled electronically by the year 2010 is one of several specific recommendations.

The report also recommended that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration work with other groups to standardize medication leaflets, making sure they are user-friendly in the process. The report also suggested that the National Library of Medicine should be in charge of online health resources for consumers, and should create one centralized Web site for information about drugs.

Many of the recommendations are in line with processes already required by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

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