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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Drug Safety and Effectiveness in Canada - Hugh McLeod Responds

Hugh B. MacLeod , CEO, Canadian Patient Coalition

From the patient’s perspective, medication can be a tricky proposition. On one hand, we put our faith in pharmaceuticals in order to cure disease and improve our quality of life. On the other, we know the disastrous effect they can have if prescribed or taken incorrectly.

In a recent discussion paper commissioned by the Health Council of Canada, designed in part to inform Canadians and stakeholders about drug safety and effectiveness issues in Canada and abroad, it is suggested that Health Canada adopt a protocol for developing drug safety messages and disseminating them to the various stakeholders following harmful incidents.

As it happens, the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI) is involved in the creation of a series of initiatives to equip healthcare providers with the information and supports necessary to minimize, and hopefully eliminate, the occurrence and severity of harmful medication incidents in Canadian healthcare organizations. This work could not have been accomplished without the support and dedication of Health Canada, the Canadian Institute for Healthcare Information (CIHI), the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada (ISMP Canada) and stakeholders from throughout the healthcare sector.

For example, earlier this year, CPSI launched a project resulting in national consensus with respect to the use of GS1 global bar coding standards for labeling medication packaging in Canada. This system is far and away the safest way to track pharmaceutical products from manufacture to administration.

Another initiative is the Canadian Medication Incident Reporting and Prevention System (CMIRPS). The aim of the CMIRPS Program is to strengthen Canada’s capacity to reduce and prevent harmful medication incidents and to manage and share information about voluntarily reported medication incidents. For instance, in the aftermath of a death in hospital due to the inadvertent injection of the drug epinephrine, which is intended for topical use, ISMP Canada issued a nationwide alert giving healthcare providers the information they need to ensure the error is never repeated.

While this type of information sharing on a national scale is commendable, we need to start thinking about patient safety on a global scale – after all, why make our own mistakes causing undue harm to patients when we can learn from those who have already gone down that path?

In the words of Dr. Dale E. Turner, “the error of the past is the wisdom and success of the future.”

We encourage you to become a patient safety champion in your organization by kick-starting the discussion around medication safety and how you can leverage the wealth of information that exists to minimize, and hopefully eliminate, the occurrence and severity of harmful medication events.

Hugh B. MacLeod is CEO of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI) 

To learn more about CMIRPS and bar coding visit and to learn more about our medication reconciliation intervention visit

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