More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying that they made them . Anonymous
Since pharmaceutical companies are the ones that manufacture the drugs, they can play a key
role in improving medication safety. They have multiple opportunities to do so including:
* Pre-market testing of brand names to reduce the risk of “sound-alike” drugs
* Using clearer labeling to prevent the problem of “look-alike” drugs
* Developing safer tamper-proof packaging
* Creating effective post-marketing surveillance measures to proactively identify and deal with potentially harmful situations
Sadly, most companies today squander these opportunities. This is because patient safety is not a priority for many of them, and they see the need to fix problems as a drain on their resources, because of the costs it imposes.
Poor implementation of safety measuresToday, when notified of errors, many pharmaceutical companies assume that merely sending a “Dear Doctor” letter to increase awareness of the problem suffices. If changes in the product name, label, or package need to be implemented, the time lag (given the intricate and complicated regulatory mechanisms), may be long, and the older product often remains in inventory until it is exhausted, instead of being immediately recalled.
Post-marketing medication safety studies have largely relied on spontaneous, passive reporting systems. These are limited by the fact that clinicians may fail to identify and report side effects and complications that they suspect are caused by a drug. In order to plug these gaps, developed countries (mainly in the EU) have developed robust systems where all drug- related AEs (Adverse Events) have to be routinely reported in the initial post-marketing period.
We should make a concerted effort to get key stakeholders to work together so that we can reduce errors related to drug names, packages, and labeling. The use of technology in managing health data has made this easier. In fact, governments in the developed world are working to build an information infrastructure that will eventually lead to:
* Elimination of most handwritten clinical data and their gradual replacement with
electronic health records (EHRs)
* Mobile prescribing (mRx)
* Automated pharmacies for prescription filling and dispensing
What pharmaceutical companies can doPharmaceutical companies can integrate with this digital ecosystem by partnering with technology providers to ensure patient safety. For example, companies which make drugs for treating asthma can also provide inexpensive sensors on their inhalers , along with intelligent smartphone apps, so that asthmatic patients can be reminded to take their medicines at the right time; and their intake of medications can be logged and recorded. We need to remember that patients are much more likely to use apps if they are prescribed by their physicians. Doctors will be happy to use digital solutions created by pharma, if it aids in diagnosis ; improves the efficiency of their care; or enhances the physician–patient relationship.
Patients can share information (either by providing active inputs or through the passive collection of digital data via their smart phone). This data can provide valuable insights for everyone - the patient, the doctor , the caregiver, as well as the pharma company. Automated intelligent analysis of the data may allow us to predict that an individual patient’s risk of getting an asthmatic attack is increased at a specific time of the day, or in one particular location (perhaps because of pollution).
Armed with these relevant insights, the patient will be able to prevent the attack more intelligently, and reduce her chances of hospitalization. This delivery of customized insights, personalized coaching and medication reminders is very valuable for patients, so they can manage their own illness with greater safety. These tools can help the pharmaceutical industry to start thinking “beyond the pill “, so they can engage directly with patients , and produce intelligent products which add more value to the life of their patients.