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Last updated: 27 July, 2023

Medicine safety

Use of medicines is the most common healthcare intervention. Appropriate use of medicines can substantially improve health outcomes. However, problems with medicine use are common.1,2 It is estimated that medicine-related problems cause 250,000 hospital admissions and 400,000 emergency department presentations in Australia each year, costing the healthcare system approximately $1.4 billion annually. Many medicine-related problems are preventable.1 The third World Health Organization Global Patient Safety Challenge—Medication Without Harm recognises the burden of medicine-related problems and aims to reduce severe, avoidable, medicine-related harm.3

The International Pharmaceutical Federation defines medicine safety as "preventing and managing medication-related errors and consequent harm in a person's medicines-taking/using journey".4 Medicine safety is relevant in all medication management settings (e.g. hospital, community pharmacy, aged care) and for all people involved in the medicine use process.2,5

Principles of medicine safety apply to all stages of the medicine use process: prescribing, dispensing, supplying, storing, manufacturing, compounding, repackaging, administering, using and monitoring of medicines.2 Medicine safety can be achieved by using systems and strategies to ensure that appropriate medicines are safely prescribed, dispensed and administered to patients who are informed about the medicines and their use.6

Use of clinical governance principles supports medicine safety at a health organisation level. Use of quality use of medicines (QUM) principles supports medicine safety at a health professional level.