FDA educational campaign to reduce medication errors caused by unclear abbreviations

The FDA and the non-profit group Institute for Safe Medication Practices(ISMP) announced the launch of an educational campaign aimed at reducing medication mistakes caused by the use of often unclear medical abbreviations in everything from handwritten prescription orders to drug labeling and advertising. “We continue see these abbreviations in medical communications, professional journals and sometimes in labeling or advertising,” said Michael Cohen, president and founder of ISMP. “For example, you have IU, the abbreviation for international unit, which can sometimes look like IV for intravenous. Another example is QD, which is usually used to indicate every day but can look like QID (four times a day).” According to the agency and ISMP, there are more than 7,000 deaths a year due to medication errors, some of which result from the use of these abbreviations. Components of the educational campaign will include: *a brochure to be distributed to healthcare professionals, the pharmaceutical industry and medical publishing professionals; *a print public service ad to be sent to professional trade publications; *posters with reminders about commonly used error prone abbreviations for healthcare facilities; *an online toolkit of materials including PowerPoint slides for presentations at conferences and meetings and *a patient safety video. FDA acting commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach said in a statement, “This joint campaign will promote safe practices among those who communicate medical information to help avoid serious and even potentially fatal consequences of medication errors.”

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