The FDA has proposed two new rules that would help improve patient safety by reducing medication errors. Medication errors alone are believed to be responsible for as many as 7,000 deaths. These errors have been attributed to problems of medications with similar names, poor handwriting by doctors on prescriptions, or too many new drugs for doctors to remember as they go from patient to patient. A 1999 study reported between 45,000 and 98,000 death due to medical mistakes. The proposed new rules require bar coding on medications and improved reporting requirements for safety problems that involve medicine.
The barcode rule would apply to all prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and vaccines. It would contain a National Drug Code number, identifying information about the drug. This technology would help prevent errors such as administering the wrong drug, the wrong dose, or the wrong method of treatment (for example by injection rather than by mouth). The second rule requires reporting all actual and potential medication errors received by all companies, to the FDA within 15 calendar days. This reporting also applies to blood establishments which encounter serious reactions.