How Medication Errors Are Handled in the United States

Have you ever wondered who is responsible for keeping tabs on medication errors in this country? Is it a state or federal agency? Is it a consumer advocacy group? Are medication errors tracked at all? These are common questions and most people don’t know the answers to them. First, according to the FDA (which receives reports of medication errors), medication errors are any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or harm to a patient. Since 2000, the FDA has received 95,000 reports of medication errors. “These reports are voluntary, so the number of actual medication errors is believed to be higher,” says Carol Holquist, R.Ph., Director of the Division of Medication Error Prevention and Analysis in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. That quote is taken directly from the FDA website and speaks volumes about the regulatory agency’s effectiveness in keeping track of medication errors. If reporting is voluntary, how many doctors or health facilities actually report errors? This is a system that is doomed to fail. In order to be effective and accurate, the reporting system must be mandatory. Is it any wonder we have such a problem?