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The medication-use process is highly complex with many steps and risk points for error, and those errors are a key target for improving safety. This Library reflects a curated selection of PSNet content focused on medication and drug errors. Included resources explore understanding harms from preventable medication use, medication safety improvement strategies, and resources for design.

Institute for Safe Medication Practices. Medication Safety Alerts. January 3, 2022.

Emerging care practices can produce unsafe situations due to the newness of the approaches involved. This alert highlights safety considerations with an oral antiretroviral COVID treatment that include medication administration problems. Safety recommendations are provided for prescribers and pharmacists.
Anand TV, Wallace BK, Chase HS. BMC Geriatr. 2021;21(1):648.
Older adults, particularly those taking more than one medication, are at increased risk of adverse drug events (ADE). In this study of 6,545 older adult patients who were prescribed at least 3 medications, multidrug interactions (MDI) were identified in 1.3% of medication lists. Psychotropic medications were the most commonly involved medication class; the most common serious ADE were serotonin syndrome, seizures, prolonged QT interval, and bleeding.

Uttaro E, Zhao F, Schweighardt A. Int J Pharm Compd. 2021;25(5):364-371. 

Medication administration, particularly when it involves drug formulation manipulation, is a complex process. This study analyzed the products included on the Institute for Safe Medication Practices’ (ISMP) ‘Do Not Crush List’ and found that many presented no risk or low risk for crushing. The authors provide recommendations for clinicians to aid in clinical decision-making regarding crushing, such as suitable personal protective equipment and prompt administration.
Pueyo-López C, Sánchez-Cuervo M, Vélez-Díaz-Pallarés M, et al. J Oncol Pharm Pract. 2021;27(7):1588-1595.
Researchers in this study used healthcare failure mode and effect analysis (HFMEA) to identify and reduce errors during chemotherapy preparation. Nine potential failure modes were identified – wrong label, drug, dose, solvent, or volume; non-sterile preparation; incomplete control; improper packaging or labeling, and; break or spill – and the potential causes and effects. Potential approaches to reduce these failure modes include updating the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), implementing a bar code system, and using a weight-based control system.
Schlichtig K, Dürr P, Dörje F, et al. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2021;110(4):1075-1086.
Building on prior research, this study found that medication errors are common in patients starting new oral anticancer therapy. Nearly two-thirds of these medication errors involved concomitantly administered medications (e.g., other prescribed drugs, over-the-counter medications).

Deprescribing is an intervention used to reduce the risk of adverse drug events (ADEs) that can result from polypharmacy. It is the process of supervised medication discontinuation or dose reduction to reduce potentially inappropriate medication (PIM) use.

Georgia Galanou Luchen, Pharm. D., is the Director of Member Relations at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). In this role, she leads initiatives related to community pharmacy practitioners and their impact throughout the care continuum. We spoke with her about different types of community pharmacists and the role they play in ensuring patient safety. 

ISMP Medication Safety Alert! Acute care edition. October 7, 2021;26(20):1-4.

Production pressure and low staff coverage can result in medication mistakes in community pharmacies. This article shares reported vaccine errors and factors contributing to mistaken administration of flu and COVID vaccines. Storage, staffing and collaboration strategies are shared to protect against vaccine mistakes.
Huynh I, Rajendran T. BMJ Open Qual. 2021;10(3):e001363.
Unintentional therapeutic duplication can lead to life-threatening complications. As part of a quality improvement project on a surgical ward, staff were educated about the risks of therapeutic duplication and strategies to decrease it. After one month of education and reminders, the rate of therapeutic duplication decreased by more than half.

Allen LV, Jr. Int J Pharm Compd. 2021;25:131-139; 222-229.

Intravenous admixture compounding is a complex activity that harbors risks for patients and health care staff.  This two-part series reviews the types of errors that compromise the safety of compounding practices, steps in the process where they occur and prevention tactics.
Aldila F, Walpola RL. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2021;17(11):1877-1886.
Older adults are at increased risk of medicine self-administration errors (MSEs) due to polypharmacy, cognitive decline, and decline in physical abilities. In this review, incorrect dosing was the most common MSE; the most common factor influencing the errors is complex medication regimens due to the need for multiple medications. Additional research is needed into how community pharmacists can assist older adults at risk of MSE.

A 4-year-old (former 33-week premature) boy with a complex medical history including gastroschisis and subsequent volvulus in infancy resulting in short bowel syndrome, central venous catheter placement, and home parenteral nutrition (PN) dependence was admitted with hyponatremia. A pharmacist from the home infusion pharmacy notified the physician that an error in home PN mixing had been identified; a new file had been created for this chronic PN patient by the home infusion pharmacy and the PN formula in this file was transcribed erroneously without sodium acetate.

Adie K, Fois RA, McLachlan AJ, et al. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2021;77(9):1381-1395.
Community pharmacists play an important role in patient safety. In this longitudinal study, community pharmacists reported 1,013 medication incidents, mainly at the prescribing and dispensing stages. Recommended prevention strategies included improved patient safety culture, adherence to organizational policies and procedures, and healthcare provider education.
Hahn EE, Munoz-Plaza CE, Lee EA, et al. J Gen Intern Med. 2021;36(10):3015-3022.
Older adults taking potentially inappropriate medications (PIMs) are at increased risk of adverse events including falls. Patients and primary care providers described their knowledge and awareness of risk of falls related to PIMs, deprescribing experiences, and barriers and facilitators to deprescribing. Patients reported lack of understanding of the reason for deprescribing, and providers reported concerns over patient resistance, even among patients with falls. Clinician training strategies, patient education, and increased trust between providers and patients could increase deprescribing, thereby reducing risk of falls. 
Cataldo RRV, Manaças LAR, Figueira PHM, et al. J Oncol Pharm Pract. 2021;Epub Mar 30.
Clinical pharmacist involvement has improved medication safety in several clinical areas. Using the therapeutic outcome monitoring (TOM) method, pharmacists in this study identified 43 negative outcomes associated with oral chemotherapy medication and performed 81 pharmaceutical interventions. The TOM method increased patient safety by improving the use of medications.
Dürr P, Schlichtig K, Kelz C, et al. J Clin Oncol. 2021;39(18):1983-1994.
Patients taking oral anti-cancer drugs may experience severe side effects and medication errors. In this randomized controlled study, patients taking oral chemotherapy drugs were randomized to receive usual care (control) or additional intensive pharmacological/pharmaceutical care (intervention). Patients in the intervention group reported considerably fewer medication errors and side effects and increased treatment satisfaction.