Medication errors, third cause of death in Spain

According to a recent study conducted by SENSAR, Spanish System of Notification in Anesthesia Safety, medication errors are the third cause of death in Spain, only behind heart diseases and cancer, and 80% of them can be prevented, as it is pointed out by information published by Infosalus. These data contrast with those presented by the Spanish Society of Hospital Pharmacy (SEFH), which warned that medication errors were the fifth cause of death in Spain and caused the death of 8,000 people a year.

This problem does not exist only at a local level but can be extrapolated to many other countries such as the United States, where medication errors cause damage to approximately 1.3 million people a year.

The report, carried out in more than 100 Spanish hospitals and published in the magazine 'The British Journal of Anesthesics', points out that 31% of the reported incidents on patient safety are associated with medication. Of these, 36% cause damage to patients and the remaining 64% have no consequences.

The study has also analyzed which are the medications that present greater incidents. Thus, by volume, are those used for therapies related to alterations of coagulation and thrombosis (antiplatelet and heparin). The drugs most associated with damage in patients are benzodiazepines, insulin and analgesics. "And the most severe ones are produced in treatments with insulins, anesthetics and vasoactive drugs, that is, with adrenaline or noradrenaline, for example," as acknowledged by Daniel Arnal, head of the Committee on Patient Safety and Quality of the European Society of Anesthesiology.

The study concludes that errors associated with medication occur in all phases, from prescription to preparation of the drug, dispensing, administration, and monitoring of the drug's effect; although almost half, 42%, are concentrated in the administration phase, where the highest rate of damage to the patient is also reported (44%).

These conclusions highlight the need to introduce comprehensive traceability systems in hospitals to ensure consistency between prescription, pharmaceutical validation, preparation in the hospital pharmacy and administration to the patient, a protocol that could save the National Health System 1,779 million euros a year.

Along the same lines, the report "Control and Traceability of the Production of Medicines in the Hospital Pharmacy" by the company Lug Healthcare Technology points out, which advocates the establishment of control systems throughout the whole process that include four areas of action. Firstly, Health Traceability, which includes the determination of batches, expiry dates, health alarms and the identification of suppliers; secondly, Logistics Traceability, which covers the classification of the product and its units, its registration and dispatch or the information available on its attributes; thirdly, Financial Traceability, an aspect that refers to both the management of resources and supplies, as well as budget control; and finally, Clinical Traceability, which includes a detailed report on the patient and his or her clinical history.

In order to reduce this problem, in 2017 the World Health Organization promoted the challenge "Harmless Medication", in which it set the goal of reducing by half the serious and avoidable damages related to medication in all countries within five years.

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