One of the greatest challenges for the pharmaceutical industry, as well as the healthcare sector in general, is ensuring drug safety through proper patient compliance. A company’s adherence to strict development and manufacturing standards and quest for quality is pointless if in the end the patient does not understand the dosing regimen or the danger of not following correct administration. And the consequence of noncompliance is as deadly as ever.
This point was emphasized by researchers at the University of California in San Diego. The team conducted a large-scale study of fatal medication errors and found that between 1983 and 2004, domestic medication fatalities not involving alcohol or street drugs (what they deemed as type 2 errors) rose by 564%. Even more astonishing is that the percentage of fatalities from medical errors that involved alcohol or street drugs rose by 3196% during that same time period.
Granted, not all of these fatalities were accidental. Even so, the authors suggest that because patients are not more than ever responsible for ensuring they follow precise dosing orders and take exact precautions. A simple cold, a bad night’s sleep, a mixture of various dosing regimens all can lead to confusion and disorientation; yet the patient is the one responsible for taking care that overdosing, underdosing, and so forth prevented.
Is there anything that the pharmaceutical industry can do? The study found that the percentage of fatal medication errors in nondomestic (facilities or clinics) administration settings rose by only 5% during that time. Can one solution, then, be to attempt to increase the number of nondomestic administrative options (yes, I realize there is a shortage of healthcare personnel). Can another solution be greater attempts to increase the number of controlled-release alternatives or more creative smart packaging designs?