ASHP Puts Safety First

In an effort to reduce medication errors, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists has recently begun the first national program to standardize medication concentrations.

This is a three-year program to develop and implement concentrations for intravenous and oral liquid medications so they are standardized around the country.

The standards will cover concentrations and dosing units for intravenous continuous medications for adult patients, concentrations for compounded oral liquid medications, concentrations and dosing units for intravenous continuous medications for pediatric patients, doses for oral liquid medications, concentrations for intravenous intermittent medications, and concentrations for PCA and epidural medications. 

Called Standardize 4 Safety, the program is the first nationwide plan involving different healthcare professions. Panels of experts will work to determine the appropriate concentrations of medications. The effort will involve pharmacists, nurses and physicians from hospitals and other healthcare organizations. Standardize 4 Safety will create, test, disseminate and support the use of the national standardized medication concentrations.

It is estimated that medication errors affect about 1.5 million patients each year, according to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences Health and Medicine Division. Many of these errors involve intravenous and oral liquid medications, and they often occur when patients are moving from one healthcare setting to another.

Three Phases

The Standardize 4 Safety Program will have three phases. The first phase will deal with the concentrations and dosages for adult continuous infusions and compounded oral liquids. The second phase will cover concentrations and dosing units for pediatric continuous infusions and standard doses for oral liquid medications. And the third phase will deal with intravenous intermittent medications, patient-controlled analgesia pumps and standard doses of oral chemotherapy agents.

Other groups working with the ASHP in the program include the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, the Pediatric Pharmacy Advocacy Group and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. Various local, state and national organizations will also assist the ASHP for certain areas of the project, including such things as testing, communication and putting the guidelines into practice.

The Standardize 4 Safety program is supported by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration as part of its Safe Use Initiative. This is a program designed to help reduce medication errors by creating and supporting collaboration between public and private organizations within the healthcare industry.

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