ISMP Issues New Drug Safety Guidelines for Community Pharmacies

Community pharmacy "Best Practices" recommendations seek to address risk of medication errors and preventable injuries caused by prescription drugs

A prominent drug safety watch group has released its first set of “Best Practices” for community pharmacies, which were developed to enhance safety and encourage safer dispensing of medications.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) developed the Targeted Medication Safety Best Practices for Community Pharmacy to address growing safety concerns stemming from community pharmacies, which may service a relatively small number of people, but collectively can play a big role in helping prevent patient harm and avoidable adverse health events.

The Best Practices were announced by the group on April 3, expanding on prior recommendations developed by the ISMP for hospital settings nearly 10 years ago. However, this is the first set of Best Practices recommendations developed specifically for pharmacies.

The group reviewed information gathered from an external expert advisory panel to establish the Best Practices, and indicates that it plans to update them as needed every two years.

Medication Errors Targeted By New Guidelines

“Many types of errors recur in community pharmacies, and more can be done to implement technology and procedures to prevent them,” said Michael J. Gaunt, PharmD, Senior Manager of Error Reporting Programs at the ISMP. “There is a natural human tendency to ‘normalize’ errors that happen in other facilities, but community pharmacy leaders have a role to play in conveying that errors present learning opportunities and steps should be taken to prevent them from happening in their own organization.”

The new Community Pharmacy Best Practices outlined in the new announcement include:

  • Preventing administering medication to the wrong patient when filling prescriptions and administering vaccines.
  • Expanding and improving barcode scanning when dispensing medication and vaccines.
  • Avoiding errors linked to mistaken dosing of methotrexate for non-cancer reasons.
  • Standardizing the use of metric units of measure when prescribing, dispensing, and measuring oral liquid medications.
  • Focusing on preventative action by considering safety risks and errors that occurred in other organizations to take preventative action.

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The ISMP is a nonprofit, independent watchdog organization focused on preventing medication errors in healthcare settings. It runs a voluntary practitioner medication error reporting program.

The group regularly releases safety updates, recommendations for changes to clinical practice, public policy suggestions, and reports focusing on medication labeling and administration, including medication administration errors.

In conjunction with the Emergency Care Research Institute, the ISMP is a federally certified patient safety organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


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