The Federal Government said that strategies had been put in place for the reduction of severe preventable medication-related harm by 50 per cent in the next five years.
Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, said this in Abuja on Monday at a news conference to commemorate the 2022 World Patient Safety Day.
Ehanire, represented by Mrs Adebimpe Adebiyi, Director of Hospital Services, Ministry of Health, said the day was marked annually on Sept. 17.
“Every one of us at some points have used medicines for treatment of illnesses.
“The benefits of drugs and medications cannot be over emphasised. However, medications can sometimes cause serious harm if not used correctly either as a result of miscommunication between the patient and healthcare giver.
“Other issues are error in prescriptions, poor monitoring of patient on medication, misuse of antibiotics which can result in antimicrobial resistance, confusion in dispensing look alike and sound alike drugs,’’ he said.
Ehanire said that the reduction would be by making improvements at each stage of the medication process, including prescribing, dispensing, administering, monitoring and use.
According to him, underreporting of medication errors is also an issue.
“A study conducted by Ogunleye et al on medication errors amongst health care professionals in 10 tertiary hospitals across the country shows 35.5 per cent of 2386 professionals that participated in this study reported medication error.
“While 33.4 per cent did not think reporting was necessary,’’ he said.
Ehanire said that the high incidence of major medication errors related to prescription of incorrect antiretroviral therapy (ART), protocols, potential drug-drug interaction in Nigeria’s HIV treatment Programme have been reported in the past.
He said that the incidence of medication errors was somewhat high; and majority of identified errors were related to prescription of incorrect ART regimens and potential drug-drug interactions.
He said the prescriber was contacted and the errors were resolved in majority of cases.
“ Active screening for medication errors is feasible in resource-limited settings following adequate capacity building,’’ he said.
Ehanire said that errors were not limited to medical or surgical services alone, some errors had also been recorded in some laboratories.
He said that Nigeria was already working to develop its National Policy and Strategy on Patient Safety and Quality of care.
The minister says “We are hoping it will be completed and launched this year so that it can be deployed for use in all our health facilities at all levels of care.”
He said the policy focused on improving medication safety, surgical safety, and safety of all medical procedures among others.
“Sensitisation and capacity are ongoing in our Federal Tertiary Health Institutions in the form of training on medication safety, infection prevention control, and other aspects of patient safety,’’ Ehanire said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), Country Representative to Nigeria, Dr Walter Mulombo said medication errors occurred most commonly due to weaknesses in medication systems, and are aggravated by shortages of well-trained health staff.
Mulombo said that other issues were poor working and environmental conditions for delivery of quality health care.
Represented by WHO Deputy Country Representative, Dr Alex Chimbaru, he said patients’ rights to medication without prejudice could be compromised through inappropriate prescribing, transcribing, dispensing, administration and monitoring practices.
“Global estimates show that medication errors contribute to over three million deaths every year, a situation which has been exacerbated by overwhelmed health systems during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“About one in every four cases of preventable medication harm is clinically severe, or life-threatening.
“While there is limited data for the African continent, it is generally acknowledged that there is a high magnitude of unsafe medication practices.
“Among low and middle-income countries, the African Region has the highest prevalence of substandard and counterfeit medicines 18.7 per cent,’’ he said.
Mulombo said that weak medication systems and human factors were the major contributory factors to unsafe practices, with many countries lacking the capacity to detect, evaluate and prevent medicine safety issues.
He said other contributory factors included fatigue, inadequate knowledge and training, staff shortages, workplace distractions, and high workload and limited resources.
Mulombo said that Nigeria had consistently updated the Essential Medicine Lists and currently work was ongoing on the integration of WHO Aware Classification of antibiotics.
He said the National Drug Policy 2005 was revised in 2021. The policy contained policy direction prescription and dispensing of medicines and pharmacovigilance.
“To take the policy directive further, the country needed to develop at least a guideline on prescription and dispensing of medicines and medical products.
He said this would support safety and audit of the professional practice.
He said WHO partnered with NAFDAC to conduct a Country Insight Studies on Substandard and Falsified (SF) medical products which was a prioritised activity of the WHO Member State Mechanism.
Mulombo said it was aimed at strengthening the SF risk communications via valuable insights into the attitudes and behaviors towards accessing medicines.