One important element of health care reform that’s often not mentioned is the cost of medical errors and specifically errors involving prescriptions.
Medication interactions, a pharmacy mix-up, or the inability to read the doctor’s handwriting, can all lead to drug dosage errors which cost us all about $4 billion a year, not to mention lives and injuries.
Now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it is trying to identify how 1.5 million prescription errors happen every year, according to the Institute of Medicine.
It is astonishing and even FDA commissioner, Margaret Hamburg, who is a doctor was stunned by the numbers. She announced a new plan called “Safe Use Initiative” by saying it “doesn’t require a new scientific discovery or a budget appropriation.”
The FDA will be holding public hearings and gathering information from the public.
Every week we hear of the adverse events from prescription medications, even when they are used as directed or prescribed. Consider Tylenol that can cause liver damage when taken in excess, and the current controversy about oral contraceptives Yaz and Yasmin, still on the market, but likely to eventually be pulled off because of the links to heart attack, strokes and blood clots.
Public Citizen’s Dr. Sidney Wolfe says part of the problem is that information is missing from warning labels about 99.5 percent of the time.
While the FDA says it doesn’t have any idea how many people die from preventable harm caused by medication errors, look at a recent Hearst newspaper group investigative report on medical errors across the country. “Dead by Mistake” finds easily 200,000 preventable deaths result from medical errors and hospital infections every year in the U.S.
Saving money and saving lives at the same time sounds like real health care reform that is badly needed.