Published Online: Friday, September 1, 2006

In a fresh warning about the dangers of institutional medication errors, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a new report concluding that 400,000 preventable drug errors occur in hospitals each year. Even more disturbing, the IOM report found that the average hospital patient is subject to at least one medication mixup for each day in the hospital.

Overall, medication mistakes injure more than 1.5 million Americans every year, and the cost of these errors is enormous, according to the IOM. The cost exceeds $3.5 billion annually, not including lost productivity and other indirect costs. On a perpatient basis, a single serious drug error can add more than $8750 to the average hospital bill, the report confirmed.

Noting that at least 1 in 4 of these errors is preventable, the IOM called on pharmacists, physicians, and government officials to take steps to reduce the rate of medication mistakes. To address the problem, the report called on the government to speed electronic prescribing by encouraging compatibility among the varied computer programs used by doctors, hospitals, and drugstores.

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