NPSF makes safe use of pharmaceuticals a national health priority

November 09, 1999

Chicago, IL -- Three billion prescriptions will be written for patients in 1999, according to FDA estimates. With medication use steadily rising each year, the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) has launched an initiative to reduce the risk of medication error. The Pharmaceutical Safety Initiative, led by the NPSF, focuses on redesigning medication practices so that every patient can use medications more safely.

According to Eleanor Vogt, R.Ph., Ph.D., NPSF Senior Fellow, "We need to redesign our medication practices - from bench to bedside and into the home - so that every patient receives the optimal medicine in the right amount, with efficient monitoring, understanding interactions and promptly recognizing, treating, and ultimately preventing adverse reactions".

Since the issues are complex, broad cooperation is needed across the health care system to affect this change. The initiative involves health care workers, researchers, regulators, hospital and ambulatory care clinicians, lawyers and legislators -- all working together with both patients and professionals to improve pharmaceutical safety.

Over five months, during the initial phase of the Pharmaceutical Safety Initiative, interviews, surveys and a workshop were conducted so that participants from all areas of health care could identify problems and opportunities, and develop a list of priorities for further action. Some of the problems identified include the lack of national leadership, lack of collaboration, widely divergent perceptions of medication risks and benefits, insufficient knowledge and inadequate education, across the various aspects of health care.

The initial phase of the project was made possible by the NPSF, and a public/private partnership reflected in a major grant from Pfizer, Inc, with additional support from Bristol-Myers Squibb Research Institute, CVS, DuPont Pharmaceuticals Company, Janssen Pharmaceutica, the US Food and Drug Administration, and Warner-Lambert Company.

Now in the next phase, the NPSF has established a National Steering Committee on Pharmaceutical Safety to lead and implement the action plan. The committee will focus on implementing key opportunities for improvement: to reposition pharmaceutical safety as a national issue rather than a regulatory issue; build public awareness of the issue; support research on medication use; and to provide additional education for health care professionals.

The Committee will be lead by Louis Diamond, M.B., Ch.B., NPSF Program Chair, and staffed by Eleanor Vogt. Members of the Committee include Stephen Fried, author, Bitter Pills; Henri R. Manasse, Jr. Ph.D., Sc.D., R.Ph., American Society of Health Systems Pharmacists; Nancy Nielson, M.D., Ph.D., AMA Council on Scientific Affairs; Bert Spilker, M.D., Ph.D., Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturer's Association; and Janet Woodcock, M.D., Food and Drug Administration.
Founded in 1997 by the American Medical Association, CNA HealthPro, 3M and other partners, the National Patient Safety Foundation is an independent, nonprofit research and education organization dedicated to the measurable improvement of patient safety in the delivery of health care. The NPSF has formed a unique partnership of health care clinicians, institutional providers, health product manufacturers, researchers, legal advisors, consumer advocates, regulators, and policy makers among its board of directors. Working collaboratively with its broad base of constituents, the NPSF is leading the patient safety movement by raising awareness, building a knowledge base, creating a forum for sharing knowledge, and facilitating the implementation of practices that improve patient safety.

For more information about the NPSF's Pharmaceutical Safety Initiative, visit our website at

National Patient Safety Foundation

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