Good practice guide on risk minimisation and prevention of

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14 April 2015
EMA/606103/2014
Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC)
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Good practice guide on risk minimisation and prevention
of medication errors
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Draft
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Draft finalised by Project and Maintenance Group 2 of Member States
and EMA pharmacovigilance governance structure
5 December 2014
Draft consulted with the European Commission’s Patient Safety Quality of
Care Working Group (PSQCWG)
11 February 2015
Draft agreed by Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC)
12 February 2015
Draft agreed by the Implementation Group (IG) of Member States and
EMA pharmacovigilance governance structure
18 February 2015
Draft circulated to the Committee for Human Medicinal Products (CHMP)
and the Co-ordination group for Mutual recognition and Decentralised
procedures – human( CMD-h)
19 February 2015
Draft adopted by the European Risk Management Strategy Facilitation
Group (ERMS-FG)
Draft released for public consultation
17 March 2015
14 April 2015
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Comments should be provided using this template. The completed comments form should be sent to
medicationerrors2013@ema.europa.eu by 14 June 2015.
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Keywords
Pharmacovigilance, medication errors, risk minimisation, error prevention;
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© European Medicines Agency, 2015. Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged.
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As part of the public consultation of the draft good practice guide on risk minimisation and
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prevention of medication errors the European Medicines Agency (EMA) would also like to
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take the opportunity to obtain stakeholder feed-back on the following questions:
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1. With regard to chapter 5.2.5 would you consider the examples of medication errors resulting in
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harm during the post-authorisation phase useful taking into account the regulatory remit for risk
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minimisation measures?
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Good practice guide on risk minimisation and prevention
of medication errors
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Table of contents
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Executive summary ..................................................................................... 5
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1. Introduction (background) ...................................................................... 5
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2. Scope....................................................................................................... 5
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3. Legal basis .............................................................................................. 6
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4. Definitions ............................................................................................... 6
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5. Structure and processes .......................................................................... 6
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5.1. General principles................................................................................................. 6
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5.2. Assessing the potential for medication errors during the product life-cycle ................... 8
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5.2.1. General considerations for potential sources of medication error .............................. 8
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5.2.2. Typical errors during the clinical trial programme .................................................. 9
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5.2.3. Data from “failure mode and effects analysis” and “human factor testing” (preauthorisation)............................................................................................................. 9
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5.2.4. Defects and device failure (pre-authorisation) ..................................................... 10
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5.2.5. Medication errors resulting in harm during post-authorisation phase ...................... 10
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6. Measurement of success of measures taken .......................................... 15
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6.1. Risk minimisation measures................................................................................. 15
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6.1.1. Error prevention at product design stage ............................................................ 16
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6.1.2. Error prevention through naming, packaging and labelling (including name review
activities and use of colour) ....................................................................................... 16
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6.1.3. Risk minimisation tools and activities ................................................................. 20
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6.1.4. New technologies ............................................................................................ 22
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6.1.5. Criteria to assess effectiveness of error prevention during post-marketing .............. 22
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6.2. Specific considerations in high risk groups ............................................................. 24
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6.2.1. Paediatric patients ........................................................................................... 24
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6.2.2. Elderly patients ............................................................................................... 25
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6.2.3. Patients with visual impairment or low literacy .................................................... 25
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6.3. Communication .................................................................................................. 26
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6.3.1. General principles of good communication in relation to medicines information ....... 26
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7. Operation of the EU regulatory network ................................................ 27
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7.1. Competent authorities in Member States ............................................................... 27
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7.2. Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) .......................................... 28
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7.3. Patients and healthcare professionals.................................................................... 28
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7.4. Marketing authorisation applicant or holder ........................................................... 28
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7.5. European Medicines Agency ................................................................................. 29
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Annex 1 – Sources of medication error in medicinal product design.......... 30
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Annex 2 – Design features which should be considered to reduce the risk of
medication error ........................................................................................ 34
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Executive summary
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Medication errors present a major public health burden and there is a need to optimise risk
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minimisation and prevention of medication errors through the existing regulatory framework. To
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support operation of the new legal provisions amongst the stakeholders involved in the reporting,
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evaluation and prevention of medication errors the Agency in collaboration with the EU regulatory
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network was mandated to develop specific guidance for medication errors, taking into account the
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recommendations of a stakeholder workshop held in London in 2013.
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This good practice guide is one of the key deliverables of the Agency’s medication error initiative and
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offers stand-alone guidance on risk minimisation and prevention of medication errors, including
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population specific aspects in paediatric and elderly patients as well as the systematic assessment and
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prevention of the risk of medication errors throughout the product life-cycle.
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1. Introduction (background)
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A medication error is considered to be any unintended failure in the medication process, including the
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prescribing, dispensing or administration of a medicinal product while in the control of the healthcare
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professional (HCP), patient or consumer, which leads to, or has the potential to lead to, harm to the
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patient. Examples of common medication errors include giving a medication to the wrong patient, the
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wrong dose of a medication being given to a patient or forgetting to give a patient a medication that
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had been prescribed for them. Competent authorities in EU Member States, marketing authorisation
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holders and the Agency have a number of obligations as detailed in Title IX of Directive 2001/83/EC
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and Regulation (EC) 726/2004, chapter 3, Article 28. These relate to the recording, reporting and
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assessment of suspected adverse reactions (serious and non-serious) associated with an error in the
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prescribing, dispensing, preparation or administration of a medicinal product for human use authorised
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in the European Union (EU), including scientific evaluation and risk minimisation and prevention.
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Medication errors represent a significant public health burden, with an estimated global annual cost
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between 4.5 and 21.8 billion € 1. Individual studies have reported inpatient medication error rates of
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4.8% to 5.3% and in another study, prescribing errors for inpatients occurred 12.3 times per 1000
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patient admissions 2. In in most cases medication errors are preventable, provided that the potential
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risks of medication errors have been considered during the product development and early marketing
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phases (when most medication errors will occur), appropriate measures put in place and reactive
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measures taken in response to documented reports of medication error. It is important that reports of
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medication errors and interventions are evaluated and incorporated into a continuous quality
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improvement (CQI) program.
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2. Scope
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This guidance outlines the key principles of risk management planning in relation to medication errors
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arising from the medicinal product (such as those related to the design, presentation, labelling,
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naming, and packaging). This guidance describes the main sources and categories (types) of
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medication error which may need to be considered, uses real-life examples of such errors, the
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measures implemented to minimise the risk of these occurring and suggests proactive approaches to
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risk management planning throughout the product life cycle. The recording, coding, reporting and
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assessment of medication errors is covered in a separate guidance document.
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http://www.who.int/patientsafety/information_centre/reports/Alliance_Forward_Programme_2008.pdf
Medication Errors: An Overview for Clinicians Wittich, Christopher M. et al. Mayo Clinic Proceedings , Volume 89 , Issue 8 ,
1116 - 1125
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3. Legal basis
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Directive 2001/83/EC specifies that the definition of the term ‘adverse reaction’ should cover noxious
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and unintended effects resulting not only from the authorised use of a medicinal product at normal
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doses, but also from medication errors and uses outside the terms of the marketing authorisation,
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including the misuse and abuse of the medicinal product. The risk management system (described in
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Directive 2001/83/EC) documents the risks which may be associated with use of a medicinal product,
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including those which arise from medication error and any measures which may mitigate these risks.
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Commission Implementing Regulation 520/2012 defines the content and format of the risk
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management plan, with provision in Part II (the safety specification) Module SVI (Additional EU
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Requirements for the safety specification) for a discussion and description of medication errors which
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may be associated with the medicinal product.
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4. Definitions
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The definitions provided in Article 1 of Directive 2001/83/EC and those provided in chapter 4 of the
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good practice guide on recording, coding, reporting and assessment of medication errors should be
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applied for the purpose of this guidance; of particular relevance for risk minimisation and prevention of
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medication errors are the definitions provided in GVP module V on risk management systems (Rev 1)
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which include the general principles presented in the ICH-E2E guideline, and GVP module XVI on risk
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minimisation measures: selection of tools and effectiveness indicators (Rev 1).
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5. Structure and processes
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5.1. General principles
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Good Vigilance Practice Module V describes the general principles of risk management planning, which
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is a global process, continuous throughout the lifecycle of the product. It involves the identification of
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risk at the pre-authorisation phase, during evaluation of the marketing authorisation application and
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post-authorisation phases. It also involves planning of Pharmacovigilance activities to monitor and
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further characterise risks, planning and implementation of risk minimisation activities and
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measurement of the success of these activities.
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It is vital that risk management planning in relation to medication errors is proactive and begins at a
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very early stage in product development. Medication errors can arise at any stage of treatment
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process, including prescribing, dispensing, preparation for administration, administration and provision
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of information. Such errors can lead to over- or under-dosing, incorrect application via the wrong route
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of administration or administration to the wrong patient population. The consequences may include 1)
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serious adverse reactions including death, 2) an increased incidence and/or severity of adverse
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reactions and 3) loss of efficacy.
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During the product development process, Marketing Authorisation Holders (MAHs) should consider the
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various sources of medication error, their relevance for the product and the likely impact on the
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balance of risks and benefits. This should take into account relevant products in the same or similar
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indication(s) already on the market. MAHs should consider whether any significance changes to the
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marketing authorisation may increase the risk of medication error. Such changes may include (but are
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not limited to) introduction of a product that differs from an authorised/established product regarding:
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concentration or strength
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pharmaceutical form
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composition
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method of preparation
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route of administration
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different administration device
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used in a different patient population or indication
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inbuilt distinguishing features in terms of appearance (e.g. design and appearance of insulin
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pen device).
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The RMP should be used to document the safety considerations given to product design and should be
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kept updated during the product life-cycle, in a dedicated section which describes the potential for
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medication errors (GVP V.B.8.6.4 module SVI). This includes a detailed description of medication errors
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which may occur based on the product design (including packaging), pharmaceutical properties and
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pharmacology of the product, and at all stages: dispensing, preparation for administration and
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administration. The RMP should also include aggregated data in the form of a summary of medication
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errors identified during the clinical trial programme (and any preventative measures taken as a result
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of these reports), the effects of device failure (where relevant) and a summary of any medication
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errors reported with the marketed product. Any risk minimisation measures proposed by the MAH to
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reduce confusion between old and new “product” (where significant changes to the MA or line
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extensions have been introduced) should be discussed in the RMP.
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When a potential risk of medication error has been identified, medication error should be captured in
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the RMP as an important risk and both routine and additional risk minimisation measures may be in
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place in place to reduce the risk of medication error. Furthermore, MAHs have an obligation to describe
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and discuss patterns of medication errors and potential medication errors within every Periodic Safety
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Update Report (PSUR), even when these are not associated with adverse reactions. The context of
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product use, including the setting, stage of medication process, category (type) of medication error,
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contributing factor(s), medicinal product(s) involved, covariates defining the treated population,
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patient outcome, seriousness, mitigating factors and ameliorating factors should be considered and
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discussed in relation to these reports. These factors are relevant not only for root-cause analyses but
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also for developing appropriate risk minimisation measures.
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5.2. Assessing the potential for medication errors during the product life-cycle
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5.2.1. General considerations for potential sources of medication error
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There are numerous potential sources of medication error and it is therefore important to fully consider
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and evaluate what errors may arise, at what stage they may occur, whether these are likely to have
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consequences in terms of safety outcomes or loss of efficacy and what measures may mitigate the risk
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of medication errors occurring. Although some medication errors may occur at the treatment phase,
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many of these could be identified at the product design stage, by considering the ways in which the
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products will be used and whether there is any potential for error 3.
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5.2.1.1. Product design
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Many different designs of medicinal product are available and all may be associated with medication
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error. The US Food and Drug Administration4 has developed guidance on safety considerations for
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product design to minimise medication errors; this guidance is complimentary to EU guidance and may
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be useful to consider. A high-level overview of the most common sources of medication error based of
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the design of product is included in Annex 1.
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Medication Errors in the context of the therapeutic armamentarium
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It is important to explore the potential for medication errors in the context of the available therapeutic
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armamentarium and where a new product may sit within this. This requires an overview of available
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treatment options at the EU Member State level and consideration of whether there is the potential for
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confusion of mix-ups between products with the same indications due to similarities in posology,
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appearance, method of administration, strength or packaging.
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In the UK, the Department of Health has issued guidance on a system-wide design-led approach to tackling patient safety
in the British National Health Service (http://www-edc.eng.cam.ac.uk/medical/downloads/report.pdf)
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http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Guidances/ucm331808.htm
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5.2.2. Typical errors during the clinical trial programme
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Subjects in clinical trials are typically closely monitored and have at least semi-regular contact with
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study investigators during the trial. This controlled environment may therefore not reflect ‘real world
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use’, but even in the clinical trial scenario, medication errors may still occur. One study 5 of cancer
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clinical trials suggested the most common type of errors were prescribing (66%), improper dose
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(42%), and omission errors (9%). The study found that not following an institutional procedure or the
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protocol was the primary cause for these errors (39%), followed by the written order (30%), and poor
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communication involving both the healthcare team and the patient (26%).
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Common sources of medication errors in trials may relate to use of small font sizes and absence of
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information on dose/strength in the plain packaging used for investigational products and such factors
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are unlikely to impact on the marketed product’s design or presentation. However, the clinical trial
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setting may be particularly useful for identifying any difficulties using medicines presented with a
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device or as a premixed solution for administration. This may allow for an early indicator of
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refinements that may need to be made to the design of the product or instructions for use prior to
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labelling, approval and marketing.
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During clinical trials, it may become evident that some drug product design features increase the risk
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of medication errors. In this scenario, Applicants should provide an appropriate risk analysis for
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medical errors detected in the clinical trial programme and use this as a basis for refinement in the
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proposed pharmacovigilance and risk minimisation activities (or both).
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5.2.3. Data from “failure mode and effects analysis” and “human factor
testing” (pre-authorisation)
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Successful risk management is based, in part, on effective quality management systems and a number
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of tools may be useful in proactively identifying and assessing the risk of medication errors.
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The FDA guidance on safety considerations for product design referred to in chapter 5.2.1.1.
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recommends two tools in particular, “failure mode and effects analysis” (FMEA) and “simulated use
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testing” (also known as “human factors” or “usability” or “user” testing). The report of the EMA’s 2013
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workshop on medication errors 6 notes the Pharmaceutical Industry’s suggestion to use other methods
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of human factor engineering that test how the actual product is used, such as the “perception-
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cognition-action” (PCA) analysis, to be carried out early in development.
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For medicinal products delivered via an administration device, the International Standard for usability
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testing for medical devices should also be followed (ISO/IEC 62366: Medical Devices – Application of
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Usability Engineering to Medical Devices 7).
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5.2.3.1. Failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA)
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The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) has issued guidance on the principles of conducting
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FMEA 8. Broadly, this involves analysis of all the potential sources of medication error before they
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occur, in the situations under which they may occur (e.g. prescribing, dispensing, preparation and
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administration). The FMEA proactively considers 1) the processes in each situation, 2) possible failures
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(what might happen), 3) the possible causes, 4) the effects on the patients, 5) the severity of the
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effect on the patient, 6) the probability the error may occur (which collectively suggest how much of a
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hazard is presented) and 7) proposed actions to reduce the occurrence of failures.
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8
J Clin Oncol (Meeting Abstracts) June 2007 vol. 25 no. 18_suppl 6547
http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Report/2013/05/WC500143163.pdf
http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=38594
https://www.ismp.org/tools/FMEA.asp
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In addition to errors due to product design (Annex 1), failures may relate to the product name,
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labelling and marking with Braille, the presentation of packaging and issues relating to storage of
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medicines. FMEA should assess all of these factors.
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5.2.3.2. Simulated use testing
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There is currently no legal requirement for user-testing of instructions for use or administration or
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reconstitution of medicines in order to investigate the potential for medication errors.
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Applicants who have performed simulated use testing are encouraged to provide the data as
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supporting evidence in EU applications. Applicants may also be asked to provide such data if there is
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concern over the risk of medication error during the assessment of the application.
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5.2.4. Defects and device failure (pre-authorisation)
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For medicinal products delivered via device, the International Standard (ISO 14971:2007 Medical
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devices - Application of risk management to medical devices 9) should be followed. Products which
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incorporate devices for administration where the device and the medicinal product form a single
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integral product designed to be used exclusively in the given combination and which are not re-usable
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or refillable (e.g. a syringe marketed pre-filled with a drug) are covered by medicines legislation.
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However, in addition to this, the relevant essential requirements in Annex 1 of the Medical Devices
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Directive 93/42/EEC 10 also apply with respect to safety and performance related features of the device
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(e.g. a syringe forming part of such a product).
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Some of the medication errors related to medicines administered via devices are described in Annex 1
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but these largely relate to errors which may occur even when the medicinal products are within quality
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standards or devices are functioning normally. It is also important to consider that medication errors
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may arise when a) medicinal products are defective, b) medical devices fail or are found to be
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defective (see examples below and in annex 1) or c) patients or HCPs misuse the product. Further
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information on the distinction between a product quality issue and a medication error is included in the
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Good Practice Guide for the Recording, Coding, Reporting and Assessment of Medication Errors.
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For medicinal products delivered via device, Applicants should consider the likelihood of common
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problems such as blocked or blunt needles, mix-ups between products presented in similar devices
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(e.g. low- and high-strength insulins), needles being of an appropriate length to deliver the medicinal
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product to the correct site of administration, non-functioning of inhaler devices under normal
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conditions of use or after dropping of the device (and other real-life examples encountered in the
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context of patient safety incident reporting described in Annex 1 and in the guidance on risk
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minimisation strategies for high strength and fixed combination insulin products included as an
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addendum to this guidance).
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5.2.5. Medication errors resulting in harm during post-authorisation phase
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Although the risk of medication errors can be considered during the product design stage and using
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data gathered from the clinical development programme, it is not until ‘real life’ use in the post-
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marketing environment that some medication errors will be identified. This may occur at various stages
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of the treatment process and involve multiple HCPs and other stakeholders.
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Prescribing
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http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_catalogue/catalogue_ics/catalogue_detail_ics.htm?csnumber=38193
http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/european-standards/harmonised-standards/medical-devices/
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A prescription is a written order, which includes detailed instructions of what medicinal product should
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be given to whom, in what formulation and dose, by what route, when, how frequently and for how
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long. Thus, a prescription error can be defined as a failure in the prescription writing process that
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results in a wrong instruction about one or more of the normal features of a prescription. Medicinal
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products are most commonly prescribed by physicians but can also be prescribed by other HCPs with
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appropriate training including nurses, dentists, pharmacists and optometrists. It is therefore important
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that all such HCPs are aware of the errors that may be introduced at the prescription stage.
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Prescribing errors may relate to stipulation of the wrong drug, dose, strength, indication, route of
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administration/pharmaceutical form or length of treatment. Medicinal products with a narrow
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therapeutic window or which are toxic in overdose may be particularly associated with medication
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errors if errors in dosing occur (e.g. a patient with chronic back pain developed respiratory failure after
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being prescribed oral morphine 100mg MST BD in instead of morphine 10mg MST BD).
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Medicinal products may not be down-titrated appropriately; a patient developed ‘grey man syndrome’
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when prescribed amiodarone 200mg three times daily for a month instead of being down-titrated to
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200mg daily after a week. In some situations the periodicity of dosing may differ across various
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indications, e.g.:
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•
cases of methotrexate overdose have been reported in patients who took methotrexate once daily
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instead of once weekly for anti-inflammatory purposes and this has led to an update of the label to
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state that the medicine should be taken once weekly
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•
dose calculation and infusion rate errors have been reported with tocilizumab, which has
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indications in rheumatoid arthritis, systemic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and paediatric juvenile
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idiopathic polyarthritis with different doses and infusion rates required depending on the indication
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and weight of the patient; educational materials were put in place for patients, nurses and
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physicians and patients should be monitored for infusion-related ADRs.
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It is important to consider situations when immediate-release and slow- or modified-release
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formulations are available and in this case the intended formulation should be clearly indicated on the
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prescription e.g.:
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•
Patients were mistakenly treated with immediate release tacrolimus instead of prolonged release
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tacrolimus which in some cases resulted in patients being dosed incorrectly, leading to serious
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adverse reactions including biopsy-confirmed acute rejection of transplanted organs. Following
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these incidents, HCPs were reminded of the potential for mix-ups and the packaging was amended
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to highlight the once-daily dose regimen for the prolonged-release formulation.
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•
Incorrect dosing with pramipexole was reported when the immediate-release formulation was
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mistaken for the prolonged-release formulation and accidental overdose was reported when
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prolonged-release formulations were crushed for ease of swallowing. Packaging was redesigned to
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differentiate between the two products and packaging and Package Leaflet for the prolonged-
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release formulation carries a clear warning that the medicine must be swallowed whole and not
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chewed, divided or crushed.
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Handwritten prescriptions may introduce errors through use of abbreviations, particularly when
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handwritten, (e.g., ‘OD’ can mean once daily or right eye, ‘QD’ (once daily) may be misread as ‘QID’ (4
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times a day), ‘U’ (used as an abbreviation for ‘units’) may be read as zero, trailing zeroes may be used
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so that 1.0mg is read as 10mg). Hard-to-read handwriting, misspelling of drug names and lack of
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detail on dose and quantity may also introduce mistakes in prescriptions. The ISMP has previously
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published a call to action to eliminate handwritten prescriptions and this focused on eliminating the
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https://www.ismp.org/Newsletters/acutecare/articles/Whitepaper.asp
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use of error-prone abbreviations by healthcare professionals. The widespread use of electronic
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prescribing systems generally eliminates such errors. However, it is still possible to select the wrong
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drug, dose and quantity from drop-down menus for inclusion in electronically-produced prescriptions.
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It is also important that electronic systems can be designed or updated to capture all key areas of
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prescribing information, sufficient to minimise errors.
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Dispensing
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Prescriptions are largely dispensed in both hospital and community pharmacies. Errors may be
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introduced by selection of the wrong product from the shelf, in terms of wrong drug, formulation, dose
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or strength (e.g. a patient with chronic obstructive airways disease was reported to have collapsed and
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experienced breathing difficulties when we was prescribed prednisolone 40mg once daily for 7 days but
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was instead given propranolol 40mg once daily). Such errors may arise due to similarities in packaging
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design, strength not being clearly highlighted and similarities in product name. Where dispensing labels
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are used, further errors may be introduced by the dispensing label if these carry incorrect dosing
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instructions and there may be inconsistency between the dispensing label and the product supplied
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such as drug name, strength or pharmaceutical form.
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It is also possible that a prescription may be dispensed to the wrong patient altogether, particularly in
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the hospital environment or care home. Good practice to avoid such errors could include asking a
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patient specifically if the product they have been dispensed is the one they usually get and checking
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that it is the product generally recommended in treatment guidelines.
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It is common for patients to be given medicinal products when discharged from hospital and this may
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be another source of error (e.g. a patient who underwent percutaneous intervention was not given any
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antiplatelet medication aspirin or clopidogrel and discharge was rushed, meaning that medications
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given on discharge were not explained; this patient received no antiplatelet medications for 2 weeks
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and was readmitted with blocked stents).
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Preparation and administration
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Some medicinal products for IV use or parenteral administration require preparation, dilution or
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reconstitution prior to use and this may introduce medication errors, examples of which are illustrated
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below:
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•
lack of efficacy was reported with leuprorelin suspension for injection due to errors in the
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preparation, mixing and administration of the product, requiring amendment of the instructions for
342
use/reconstitution.
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•
there have been numerous reports of medication error (some fatal) when concentrated solutions of
344
potassium chloride have been given to patients without first being diluted or if erroneously
345
substituted for sodium chloride. This has led many national safety organisations to issue
346
recommendations on the stocking, storage, handling and labelling of concentrations potassium
347
chloride to minimise these risks.
348
•
there have been reports of life-threatening overdose with a hybrid formulation of topotecan due to
349
confusion arising from the hybrid having a higher concentration than the dilution concentration of
350
other topotecan products; this is clearly labelled in product information and a coloured vial collar
351
acts as a strong visual reminder to notice the concentration.
352
•
There have been reports of inappropriate dilution of bortezomib which is reconstituted with
353
differing amounts of solvent depending on the site of administration; a dosing card, poster, a
354
leaflet and product information describe the correct dilution for administration by subcutaneous
355
(SC)and IV routes.
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•
Prescribing, dispensing and medication errors have been reported with olanzapine where the
357
rapidly-acting intramuscular (IM) injection formulation has been confused with the prolonged-
358
release depot formulation; a HCP awareness programme is in place including a DVD, slides,
359
brochure and patient alert card to explain the differences between the two IM formulations of
360
olanzapine (including packaging differences)
361
A product presented as two ampoules (one containing water as the solution for injection and another
362
containing the powder for solution) was labelled only with the trade name. This introduced the
363
possibility for misunderstanding, because the ampoule with the solution may be mistaken for the
364
medicinal product containing the active substance and the patients may receive only water for
365
injections. The product was relabelled to make it clear that the ampoule containing a solution
366
contained water for injection, for use with the active substance. Treatments given by the intravenous
367
(IV) route are associated with the highest rates of preparation and administration error due to issues
368
such as incompatibility with diluents or by injecting bolus doses faster than the recommended slower
369
infusion time. Medicinal products for IV use may be inadvertently given by the subcutaneous (SC),
370
intradermal or intra-muscular (IM) route rather than by infusion. Cases of needle contamination can
371
also result in accidental exposure to product or exposure to contaminated device (e.g. a case of
372
adhesive arachnoiditis and paraplegia was reported when chlorhexidine, used as topical disinfectant in
373
epidural or spinal anaesthesia procedures reached the meninges via a contaminated spinal/epidural
374
needle).
375
A further source of error may be the use of medicinal products which have expired or been stored
376
incorrectly (for example at the wrong temperature), which may lead to loss of efficacy.
377
Where medicinal products are self-administered by patients, the underlying reasons for medication
378
error or accidental overdose may include lack of understanding of the dose regime. Risk factors for
379
medication errors include decline in patients’ renal or hepatic function (both associated with higher
380
medication error rates), patients’ impaired cognition, comorbidities, dependent living situation, non-
381
adherence to medications, and polypharmacy. Advanced age is also a patient-related risk factor for
382
medication errors.
383
Errors of omission (where the drug is not administered to the patient) may occur for a variety of
384
reasons. Such errors can be critical if control of a medical condition requires regular medication (e.g. a
385
patient with epilepsy was hospitalised with seizures when they ran out of supplies of carbamazepine
386
and could not get a repeat or emergency supply). Other sources of errors of omission may include
387
failure of communication between staff, especially when transferring patients between different units
388
or hospitals, or failure to keep accurate drug administration records.
389
The use of multiple dose units to achieve a single dose (i.e. multiple vials of a drug or combinations of
390
different tablet strengths) may be problematic if the number of dose units used is not closely
391
monitored and recorded during administration. Patients may also not receive medication at the right
392
time, e.g. on an empty stomach or in the morning rather than in the evening. Product information
393
should include clear instructions on the most appropriate dosing time (if this is important) and whether
394
the medicines can or should be taken with food and drink. There may also be use of medicinal
395
products in patients who have allergies to such treatment; product information for all medicinal
396
products should carry a contraindication for use in patients with known hypersensitivity to the active
397
substance or excipients.
398
There is also the potential for errors in administration by visiting HCP and carers, who may be carrying
399
multiple individual products for different patients in the same bag. Here, clear identifying features of a
400
product can help to distinguish between products (e.g. ensuring that the presentation of a product,
401
such as an insulin pen, differs to others of the same class so that they are less easily mixed up).
402
Specific risk minimisation strategies e.g. for high strength and fixed combination insulin products
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403
administered in pre-filled pens is provided in a guidance document included as an addendum to this
404
guidance.
405
Device failure
406
Device failure can occur in the post-marketing setting, e.g.:
407
•
misplacement of dexamethasone intraocular implants has been reported and found to be due to
408
mechanical failure of the implantation device; this led to introduction of training materials for the
409
use of the device.
410
•
411
412
413
414
breakage of levonorgestrel intrauterine devices on removal has been reported, meaning that pieces
of the device have been left in situ.
•
due to malfunction of the prefilled pen device several patients were reported to have missed a dose
of adalimumab, one of whom was hospitalised with flare-up of the underlying disease.
A number of other examples of device-related medication errors are included in Annex 1. Where such
415
failures are reported, MAHs should follow-up reports to obtain additional information as necessary and
416
investigate whether the reports are substantiated, are isolated examples or are batch-wide and batch-
417
specific. Further guidance on the elements of medication errors relating to defective medicines which
418
should be reported or followed up for further details are included in the Good Practice Guide for the
419
Recording, Coding, Reporting and Assessment of Medication Errors.
420
5.2.5.1. Reporting and Coding of medication errors
421
Guidance on the reporting and coding of medication errors is provided in the Good Practice Guide for
422
the Recording, Coding, Reporting and Assessment of Medication Errors.
423
5.2.5.2. Root cause analysis
424
The root cause analysis (RCA) is a structured method used to analyse serious adverse events derived
425
from errors. The goal is to identify both active errors (errors occurring at the point of the interface
426
between humans and a complex system) and latent errors (the hidden problems within healthcare
427
systems that contribute to the event).
428
A multidisciplinary team should analyse the sequence of events leading to the error. RCA should be
429
performed at local level in order to prevent future harm by eliminating the latent errors and to ensure
430
confidentiality.
431
A RCA should be conducted for any medication errors detected in the post-marketing environment so
432
that lessons can be learned from serious incidents which may in turn reduce the likelihood of future
433
incidents. The PSUR and RMP can both be used to document and analyse reports of medication error
434
related to the design, presentation, labelling or naming of the medicinal product and where the need
435
for risk minimisation measure and or communication can be taken..
436
A RCA has 3 basic steps:
437
1. Identification of the problem (including details of what happened, when, where and in what
438
439
440
441
442
situation, and what the impact of the event is on stakeholders)
2. Identification of causes of the problem (describe the processes that led to the problem and identify
the stages at which error could have or did occur)
3. Identification of solutions (identify possible or potential solutions from sources of error in the
process)
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443
6. Measurement of success of measures taken
444
6.1. Risk minimisation measures
445
Risk minimisation activities can mitigate the risk of medication error related to the medicinal product.
446
This guidance is complimentary to the recommendations in Good Vigilance Practice Modules V 12 (Risk
447
management) and XVI 13 (Risk minimisation measures: selection of tools and effectiveness) which offer
448
guidance on the development of risk minimisation tools.
449
Routine risk minimisation
450
Routine risk minimisation measures apply to all products and include:
451
•
the summary of product characteristics;
452
•
the labelling;
453
•
the package leaflet;
454
•
the pack size(s);
455
•
the legal status of the product.
456
Pack size limitations can reduce the risk of medication errors in the form of patients taking too many
457
tablets (leading to overdose) and require the patient to return to the prescriber, who can check the
458
status and progress of the patient and that the medicine is being used correctly.
459
It is important to consider whether critical information to avoid medication errors included in
460
documents such as the SmPC and Patient Information Leaflet is likely to be read by HCPs, patients or
461
care givers or whether more prominent warnings should be included on the packaging so that these
462
are not overlooked (e.g. the labels for generic piperacillin/tazobactam carry a statement that they
463
must not be mixed or co-administered with any aminoglycoside, and must not be reconstituted or
464
diluted with lactated Ringer’s (Hartmann’s) solution; a similar warning is not required for the branded
465
product as this has been reformulated to remove these incompatibilities).
466
Additional risk minimisation
467
Additional risk minimisation measures may also be necessary in some circumstances and these
468
encompass any measures beyond labelling, pack size and legal status. Additional risk minimisation
469
measures should focus on the prevention of medication errors, but the burden of imposing such
470
measures on patients, HCPs and the healthcare system should be balanced against the benefits.
471
The most common form of additional risk minimisation is educational materials for HCPs and patients,
472
but other approaches may also be considered in agreement with National Competent Authorities (e.g.
473
educational videos showing correct reconstitution and injection of a solution, prescriber’s checklists to
474
ensure that appropriate pre-treatment tests have been performed, demo-kits for complex devices).
475
Educational materials are predominantly paper-based but as risk minimisation evolves it is likely that
476
MAHs will consider supplementing such materials with by internet-based activities and new
477
technologies in prescribing and dispensing systems to improve safe medication practice, such as smart
478
phone apps, bar–coding and pill identifier websites. This should be discussed and agreed with national
479
competent authorities in all cases with input sought from the Working Group on Quality Review of
480
Documents as necessary.
12
13
http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Scientific_guideline/2012/06/WC500129134.pdf
http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Scientific_guideline/2014/02/WC500162051.pdf
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481
The development of additional risk minimisation materials should involve consultation with
482
communication experts, patients and HCPs on the design and wording of educational material and that,
483
where appropriate, it is piloted before implementation.
484
additional pharmacovigilance to monitor their effectiveness.
485
6.1.1. Error prevention at product design stage
486
A number of common sources of medication error which should be considered at the product design
487
stage are described in Annex 1 and include the appearance, size and shape of tablets, dilution
488
problems with concentrated solutions and issues with the application and disposal of patches.
489
Applicants should proactively consider all aspects of the design of the product, how it will be used and
Such measures may also be subject to
490
who will use it and conduct a suitable analysis of potential medication errors (see section 2.2.3). From
491
these, the MAH should consider what risk minimisation may be introduced in the design of the product
492
to reduce the risk of medication errors; a number of suggestions are included in Annex 2.
493
494
6.1.2. Error prevention through naming, packaging and labelling (including
name review activities and use of colour)
495
Look alike and sound alike names of medicinal products which could pose a risk to patients’ safety
496
should be avoided. The name of a medicinal product could be an invented name not liable to confusion
497
with a common name (e.g. INN) or a common name or scientific name accompanied by trade mark or
498
name of the MAH.
499
6.1.2.1. Naming
500
International Non-proprietary Name (INN)
501
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued guidance on devising new International
502
Nonproprietary Names (INN) to facilitate the identification of pharmaceutical substances or active
503
pharmaceutical ingredients, including the following recommendations:
504
•
505
506
liable to confusion with names in common use.
•
507
508
Use of common ‘stems’ for products which are in related pharmaceutical classes (e.g. -azepam for
diazepam derivatives, -bactam for beta-lactamase inhibitors, gli- for sulfonamide hypoglycaemics).
•
509
510
INN should be distinctive in sound and spelling. They should not be inconveniently long and not be
To avoid confusion neither trade-marks nor product brand names should be derived from INNs nor
contain common stems used in INNs.
•
It is important to note that the alternating use of brand names and INNs may lead to inadvertent
511
overdosing, should patients be treated with multiple products containing the same active
512
substance.
513
However, it is also important to consider the potential for confusion between products due to
514
similarities in the INN. These can arise from phonetic (sound-alike), orthographic (look-alike) and
515
cognitive errors. There have been instances where products with similar INNs have been inadvertently
516
used (e.g. flucloxacillin recorded in place of the prescribed fluvoxamine, prochlorperazine prepared
517
instead of promethazine). The FDA and ISMP recommend the use of Tall Man letters where part of the
518
INN or drug name is written in upper case, to help distinguish sound-alike and look-alike INN or drug
519
names from one another, making them less prone to mix-ups (e.g. NovoLOG and NovoLIN and
520
HumaLOG and HumuLIN 14).
14
http://www.ismp.org/tools/confuseddrugnames.pdf
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521
Brand Name
522
The CHMP has issued guidance on the acceptability of names for human medicinal products processed
523
through the centralised procedure 15. This includes that the name should not convey a promotional
524
message, have ‘bad’ connotations in any of the official languages, be misleading in therapeutic,
525
pharmaceutical or composition terms or cause confusion in print with any other branded product or
526
established INN. The MAH should take this guidance into account when proposing invented names to
527
the competent authorities.
528
There have been some examples of brand name mix-ups or errors, e.g.:
529
•
530
•
In Italy, Diamox (acetazolamide) has been mistaken for Zimox (amoxicillina triidrato)
In Ireland, confusion arose between the brand names Lasix (frusemide) and Losec (omeprazole)
531
which may look similar when handwritten. There have been cases of product name confusion
532
between Plavix (clopidogrel) and Pradaxa (dabigatran etexilate), particularly as both products have
533
a 75mg dosage form and daily posology
534
•
There has been confusion between the trade names Faustan (active substance diazepam) and
535
Favistan (active substance thiamazole) and consequently the MAH changed the name of the
536
diazepam medicinal product to Diazepam Temmler to reduce the risk of medication error due to
537
mix-ups between the two medicinal products.
538
For centrally authorised medicines, the potential for medication errors arising from the name of the
539
medicinal product is assessed (for centrally authorised medicinal products) by the EMA’s Name Review
540
Group, who have issued guidance on this matter 16. The Group reviews the proposed (invented) name
541
of medicinal products and considers whether invented names may convey misleading therapeutic or
542
pharmaceutical connotations, be misleading with respect to product composition of the product, be
543
promotional, cause confusion in identifying medicinal products, or create difficulties in pronunciation
544
(or have any inappropriate connotations) in the different EU official languages.
545
6.1.2.2. Labelling and livery
546
The aim of good labelling is: correct description of the medicine, clear product selection and
547
identification, information ensuring safe storage, selection, preparation, dispensing, and administration
548
as well as track and trace. The design of labelling and packaging may lead to mis-selection of medicinal
549
products, therefore all medicinal products placed on the market are required by Community law to be
550
accompanied by labelling and package leaflet which provide a set of comprehensible information
551
enabling the use safely and appropriate. Articles 54–57 and 61-63 of Directive 2001/83/EC specify the
552
information which must appear on the outer packaging (or immediate packaging where there is no
553
outer packaging), including: the name of the medicinal product, dosage unit, pharmaceutical form, list
554
of excipients, method/rout of administration, warning that the products should be kept out of the sight
555
and reach of children, expiry date, batch number, contents by weight, by volume or by unit
556
requirements, special storage or disposal conditions, information on Braille. On the printed outer
557
packaging material, an empty space should be provided for attaching the prescribed dose. The use of
558
the Quality review of Documents (QRD) template ensures that the product is labelled with this
559
minimum information and this can help to clearly identify the product and reduce the risk of confusion
560
with other products. The readability guideline 17 provides guidance to ensure that the information
15
http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Regulatory_and_procedural_guideline/2014/06/WC500167844.p
df
16
http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Regulatory_and_procedural_guideline/2014/06/WC500167844.p
df
17
http://ec.europa.eu/health/files/eudralex/vol-2/c/2009_01_12_readability_guideline_final_en.pdf
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561
presented is accessible and understandable. In addition, several organisations have published design
562
for safety guidances (NHS). The special space constraints on small containers (vial) and blister packs
563
should also be taken into consideration.
564
Products with the same manufacturer
565
MAHs may adopt packaging and labelling which supports a common “trade dress” and this can serve as
566
an identifying mark and to create visual associations between multiple products from the same
567
manufacturer. However, this assumes perfect performance by both healthcare professionals and
568
patients and it is therefore important to assess such livery to determine whether it may give rise to a
569
risk of medication error. Package design and livery should not compromise other distinguishing
570
features of the medicinal product e.g.:
571
•
a case of unintended pregnancy was reported when a product used to treat symptoms of
572
menopause was dispensed in error as oral contraception due to similarities in the packaging livery
573
and a similar combination of ingredients as other oral contraceptives.
574
•
Patients were mistakenly vaccinated with Repevax instead of Revaxis due to similarity in names,
575
labelling and packaging; children over 10 years of age and unvaccinated children did not receive
576
the appropriate booster immunisation against diphtheria, tetanus and poliomyelitis with Revaxis.
577
The MAH amended the packaging for Repevax to help distinguish it more clearly from Revaxis and
578
this change was also communicated to HCPs.
579
If a MAH markets two or more products in the same therapeutic area which have a similar company
580
livery, the possibility of mix-ups between the medicinal products must be considered (and labelling
581
amended accordingly). This issue has been identified for injectable insulin products;
582
•
583
584
a patient developed hypoglycaemia after being prescribed Insulin Novorapid 16 units twice daily
instead of Novomix
•
585
the presentation of different insulins in the same Flexpen device has led to reports of mix-up
between these two insulins.
586
Clear distinction between medicinal products may be achieved by use of different colours, if such
587
colours can be clearly distinguished from one another by the majority of users. However, this must
588
take into account that red-green colour vision deficiencies affects up to 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200
589
women. The ISMP have issued guidance 18 which highlights the potential uses of colour e.g.
590
•
591
592
identification;
•
593
594
colour coding, where there is a standard application of colour to aid in classification and
colour differentiation, which makes certain features stand out, or helps to distinguish one item
from another;
•
595
colour matching, where colour is used to guide matching up of various components of multipart medicinal products.
596
The guidance highlights the problems which may arise from these, including a limited variety of
597
available colours and lack of common understanding of colour coding conventions.
598
Specific risk minimisation strategies e.g. for high strength and fixed combination insulin products
599
administered in pre-filled pens are provided in a guidance document included as an addendum to this
600
guidance.
18
http://www.ismp.org/newsletters/acutecare/articles/20031113.asp
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601
There may be other key data elements which are important to emphasize visually on the outer
602
packaging and on the medicinal product itself, to prevent mix-ups. For products available in different
603
strengths, and where the risk of under- or over-dose is potentially severe, it may be necessary to
604
highlight the strength by use of increased font size and a warning colour such as red (noting the
605
provisions for those with red-green colour blindness). Other measures may include the use of a
606
‘hatching’ effect to differentiate one similar product from another, or the introduction of a ‘warning
607
label’ to draw attention to critical information (e.g. “CAUTION HIGH STRENGTH”).
608
Products with different manufacturers
609
In addition to the review of names and packaging, applicants should consider the appearance and
610
name of their medicinal product in comparison to medicinal products from other manufacturers used in
611
similar indications, and the potential for confusion between medicinal products. This is particularly
612
relevant for vaccines which are generally stored together in refrigerators in the local surgery and
613
where the potential exists for accidentally selecting the wrong product due to similarities in appearance
614
between medicinal products, and is also relevant for medicinal products which may be stored in the
615
patient’s fridge at home, such as injectable insulin products made by different manufacturers.
616
Different manufacturers make use of colour as part of their brand and livery and in most cases there is
617
no set colour scheme that must be used for a given indication or class of medicinal products (although
618
there are isolated examples; in the UK there is a colour-coding convention for warfarin tablets wherein
619
0.5 mg tablets are white, 1 mg tablets are brown, 3 mg tablets are blue and 5 mg tablets are pink).
620
However, choice of colour should be considered in product design (e.g. pharmacists have raised
621
concerns that a fixed-dose combination of vilanterol and fluticasone furoate with indications in the
622
maintenance treatment of asthma and COPD) may be used in error for the relief of symptoms of
623
asthma due its presentation in an inhaler device with blue parts, blue being a common choice of colour
624
for reliever inhalers in some EU Member States).
625
6.1.2.3. Use of illustrations and pictures in product information
626
Product information often includes illustrations on use of the product or reconstitution prior to use. The
627
MAH should consider on a case-by-case basis whether it is clearer to use photographs or
628
diagrams/pictograms to illustrate correct use of a product within product information. Any descriptions
629
which accompany pictures should describe clearly only what is shown in the picture. As mentioned in
630
section 2.2.3, human factor testing can be very useful in demonstrating that instructions for use can
631
be understood and followed without error.
632
Non-prescription medicinal products are likely to be used without the supervision of a HCP and labelling
633
and should therefore include all relevant information for the lay reader about safe use of the medicinal
634
product. This includes use of diagrams and pictograms and advice on seeking medical help if there are
635
any concerns.
636
The QRD recommendations on pack design and labelling for centralised non-prescription products 19
637
summarises basic principles.
19
http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Regulatory_and_procedural_guideline/2011/04/WC500104662.p
df
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638
6.1.3. Risk minimisation tools and activities
639
6.1.3.1. For patients/caregivers
640
Key to risk minimisation and prevention of medication errors is the provision of a suitable PL which
641
describes the correct use of the medicinal product. There is a requirement to include a user-tested PL
642
in the packaging of the medicinal product in most cases. However, it is important that large-print and
643
Braille leaflets are also made available, particularly for patients with sight problems. There is increasing
644
use of the internet to provide information concerning medicinal products, for example, training
645
materials for the insertion of etonogestrel contraceptive implants are provided on the MAH’s website to
646
complement formal training and are intended to minimise the risk of medication error through
647
incorrect insertion. Additionally, National Competent Authorities may publish guidance on their
648
websites on practices to reduce the risk of medication error (e.g. the Medicines and Healthcare
649
products Regulatory Agency in the UK included an article in its ‘Drug safety Update’ bulletin
650
highlighting that insulin degludec was available in additional higher strength than existing insulins and
651
that care was needed to minimise risk of error, including training for patients20).
652
Participants in the EMA workshop on medication errors (2013) suggested a number of activities to
653
mitigate the risk of medication error, which are not part of any formal guidance. These include the use
654
of separate medicine cabinets for different household members and the use of more sophisticated tools
655
that can help to prevent medication errors (e.g. smart phone applications which remind patients to
656
take their medications on time and track medications which have been taken, and websites which carry
657
pill identifier tools to help patients identify medicines).
658
6.1.3.2. For Healthcare professionals
659
HCPs are responsible for ensuring that patients are prescribed and receive the appropriate medication
660
without errors. Where patients are responsible for the administration of the medication themselves,
661
HCPs should ensure that the patient understands how to self-administer the medications appropriately
662
in order to minimise the risk of medication errors.
663
Prescribers
664
Prescribers have an important role in determining that the treatment is appropriate for the patient,
665
based on the licensed indication as described in the product information. The use of pop-up reminders
666
in e-prescribing systems may be useful in reminding the prescriber to specify details of the
667
prescription, e.g. strength of insulin. Other tools which may assist HCPs in prescribing appropriately
668
may include the use of reminder cards (e.g. the healthcare professional’s reminder card for
669
vismodegib, which is teratogenic, contains information for men and women on the importance of
670
adequate contraception and pregnancy testing), reminder posters and prescriber guides and checklists.
671
Pharmacists
672
Pharmacists may play an important role in verifying that the treatment is appropriate for the patient
673
and identifying potential prescribing errors before the medication is dispensed to the patient. The
674
pharmacist may identify issues by speaking to the patient or by consulting dispensing records.
675
Although it is important to be discreet and not to undermine the confidence of the patients in the
676
prescriber, the pharmacist is well-placed to ask such questions as whether the patient has received the
677
medicine before. If any aspect of the prescription appears to be inappropriate for the patient (e.g. it is
678
contraindicated, dosage appears to be excessive, or if a medicine requires a negative pregnancy test
20
http://www.mhra.gov.uk/Safetyinformation/DrugSafetyUpdate/CON266132
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679
before being dispensed) this can usually be verified by contacting the prescribers whose details are
680
included on the prescription.
681
Pharmacists are also well placed to counsel patients at the point of dispensing on the use of their
682
medications, including dose regimen, timing of medicine intake in relation to other medicines or food
683
and use of devices such as inhalers, and to answer any questions from patients.
684
The following list of common dispensing errors identified in hospital Pharmacies 21 highlights the
685
importance of checking that details of each prescription have been transcribed correctly and medicinal
686
products selected carefully in order to minimise the risk of medication error, including:
687
•
Dispensing medicinal product for the wrong patient (or for the wrong ward)
688
•
Dispensing the wrong medicinal product
689
•
Dispensing the wrong drug strength
690
•
Dispensing at the wrong time
691
•
Dispensing the wrong quantity
692
•
Dispensing the wrong dosage form
693
•
Dispensing an expired or almost expired medicinal product
694
•
Omission (i.e. failure to dispense)
695
•
Dispensing a medicinal product of inferior quality (pharmaceutical companies)
696
•
Dispensing an incorrectly compounded medicinal product (compounding in pharmacy)
697
•
Dispensing with the wrong information on the label:
698
o
Incorrect patient name
699
o
Incorrect medicinal product name
700
o
Incorrect strength
701
o
Incorrect instruction (including incorrect dosage)
702
o
Incorrect medicinal product quantity
703
o
Incorrect dosage form
704
o
Incorrect expiry date
705
o
Omission of additional warning(s)
706
o
Incorrect pharmacy address
707
o
Other labelling errors
708
•
Dispensing with the wrong verbal information to the patient or representative
709
For some of these errors, the risk may be increased for some medications. These include medications
710
with similar names (INN or brand name) or similar packaging, medicinal products which are available
711
in multiple strengths and or formulations, including different delivery devices, and situations where the
712
same active ingredient is present in different medicinal products for different indications.
21
Br J Clin Pharmacol. Jun 2009; 67(6): 676–680.
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713
6.1.4. New technologies
714
A study of the prevalence and causes of prescribing errors in general practice in England 22 suggested
715
that prescribing or monitoring errors were detected for one in eight patients. The most common types
716
of prescribing error were “incomplete information” (37.9%) ‘‘unnecessary drug’’ (23.5%),
717
‘‘dose/strength error’’ (14.4%) and ‘‘omission’’ (11.8%). The study recommended GP training,
718
continuing professional development, clinical governance, the effective use of clinical computers, and
719
improving systems to support safe medicines management.
720
In recent years there has already been increased use of technology in prescribing and dispensing
721
systems. Such new technologies go beyond the regulatory tools for mitigating the risk of medication
722
error (which are the responsibility of national competent authorities and MAHs) but they may provide a
723
valuable contribution to minimising the risk of medication errors. The inclusion of the following in this
724
guidance in intended only to raise awareness of those tools, including:
725
•
Use of prescribing software for general practitioners including prescribing decision support software
726
which can check the correct medicinal product and dosage form, correct dose calculations, cross-
727
check information on allergies, provide information on known drug interactions and adjustment of
728
dosages in patients with renal or hepatic dysfunction;
729
•
730
731
Electronic prescribing services (EPS) where prescriptions are sent electronically to a dispenser
(such as a pharmacy) of the patient's choice
•
Automated medicine-dispensing robots and automated dispensing cabinets in hospitals, which can
732
reduce dispensing errors by packaging, dispensing, and recognizing medicinal products using bar
733
codes
734
•
Use of bar-coded medication administration (BCMA) systems in hospitals to check and record that
735
the right patients has received the right medicinal product at the right time; such systems can be
736
expensive to implement and maintain but were shown to reduce the medication error rate in an
737
intensive care unit by 56%
738
•
739
Use of electronic health record (EHR) to ensure that all relevant information is taken into
consideration at prescription and during administration.
740
741
6.1.5. Criteria to assess effectiveness of error prevention during postmarketing
742
The difficulties around standardised coding for medication errors in spontaneous reporting systems
743
means that such systems are unlikely to be able to collect all incidents of medication error and will not
744
collect reports of ‘near misses’. There are a number of International Classification of Diseases (ICD)
745
codes which relate to medication errors and which may be useful in the collection of data in this area.
746
Collaboration between different national reporting systems which collect data on medication errors,
747
regardless of whether or not they were associated with clinical consequences, are an important source
748
of both process and outcome data but for medication errors associated with ADR the exchange of
749
information is a legal requirement. Article 107a(5) of Directive 2001/83/EC states that the EU Member
750
States shall ensure that reports of suspected adverse reactions arising from an error associated with
751
the use of a medicinal product that are brought to their attention are made available to the
752
Eudravigilance database and to any authorities, bodies, organisations and/or institutions, responsible
753
for patient safety within that EU Member State. They shall also ensure that the authorities responsible
22
http://www.gmcuk.org/Investigating_the_prevalence_and_causes_of_prescribing_errors_in_general_practice___The_PRACtICe_study_Reo
prt_May_2012_48605085.pdf
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754
for medicinal products within that EU Member State are informed of any suspected adverse reactions
755
brought to the attention of any other authority within that Member State. These reports shall be
756
appropriately identified in the forms referred to in Article 25 of Regulation (EC) No 726/2004.
757
Reporting requirements for MAHs and national competent authorities for medication errors without
758
ADR are addressed in the Good Practice Guide for the Recording, Coding, Reporting and Assessment of
759
Medication Errors.
760
Routine pharmacovigilance through monitoring of spontaneous reporting systems is the most
761
commonly-employed method of measuring the success of risk minimisation activities but it has major
762
limitations and alternative proposals should be made wherever possible.
763
A Post-Authorisation safety Study (PASS) can be a useful method to show how patterns of use or
764
reporting of errors may have changed before and after safety communications or changes in product
765
labelling, and may also identify sources of medication in the post-approval setting, e.g.:
766
•
For aflibercept, the potential risk of medication errors due to overdose from the pre-filled syringe is
767
being addressed by an observational PASS to evaluate physician and patient knowledge of safety
768
and safe use information of aflibercept in Europe.
769
•
Medication errors due to the incorrect application of rivastigmine patches were addressed by
770
circulation of a DHPC but spontaneous reporting showed cases were still being reported with no
771
clear trends of improvement observed after the issuance of the DHPC. The MAH was asked to
772
implement further risk minimisation measures to manage the risk of medication error through
773
overdose including updates to product information and educational material for prescribers. The
774
MAH was required to measure the success of these measures through additional Pharmacovigilance
775
in the form of a DUS.
776
Another commonly employed method to measure the outcome of risk minimisation activities is a
777
survey or questionnaire used to ascertain the retention and implementation of key risk minimisation
778
messages by HCPs and/or patients, e.g.
779
•
For insulin lispro, the risk of medication errors potentially arising due to confusion with different
780
presentations with different strengths is being targeted through dissemination of a DHPC and
781
patient communication materials. A patients and physician survey is underway to assess the
782
effectiveness of the DHPC.
783
•
For cabazitaxel, the risk of medication errors related to errors in reconstitution of the product led
784
to dissemination of a DHPC and updates to product information in order to improve the readability
785
of the information for reconstitution. The effectiveness of the DHPC is being conducted through a
786
survey of hospital Pharmacists.
787
Survey approaches can be highly susceptible to recall bias on the part of the interviewees and
788
therefore such studies require careful design. Further guidance on the selection of risk minimisation
789
tools and the measurement of the outcomes of these measures is provided in GVP Module XVI, ‘Risk
790
minimisation measures: selection of tools and effectiveness indicators’ 23; Guidance on the key
791
elements of survey methodology is included as an Appendix to GVP Module XVI.
23
http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Scientific_guideline/2014/02/WC500162051.pdf
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792
6.2. Specific considerations in high risk groups
793
6.2.1. Paediatric patients
794
Paediatric patients may be at particularly high risk of medication errors due to their variation in age,
795
size and weight, body surface area (BSA) and degree of development. This is reflected in the dosing
796
instructions for some paediatric products which express dosage and strength by bodyweight rather
797
than by age in months or years.
798
Overdose was the most commonly reported medication error (accounting for 21% of all reports) in a
799
study of paediatric patients (Manias et al 201324) while underdosing in certain paediatric specialties
800
was the most commonly reported medication error in these settings (Bolt et al 2014 25). These
801
conflicting findings indicate a more general risk of dosing errors (leading to either over- or
802
underdosing) in paediatric patients. Paediatric prescribing is often determined by the patient’s weight,
803
yet weight is not measured before each prescription and can change over time meaning that
804
recalculation of drug doses is required. Due to the need to find the right dose based on weight (or
805
BSA) for the majority of paediatric medicines, mathematical miscalculations may be more likely in
806
paediatric patients than adults.
807
Occasionally there is a need for complex dilutions by medics/nurses/pharmacists; medication errors
808
with infusion of fluids and electrolytes are common. For liquid oral medications there is some evidence
809
that oral syringes may be the most accurate dosing device 26. However, liquid formulations may present
810
a risk of medication error if the wrong dosing device is used to deliver them (e.g. a liquid oral
811
formulation of paracetamol was presented with a dropper graduated in mL for infants less than 3 years
812
and an oral syringe graduated in mL for infants older than 3 years; use of the oral syringe in infants
813
could lead to a risk of overdose).
814
Historically there has been a lack of development of paediatric medicines and lack of clear guidance on
815
paediatric dosing in product information or other sources, leading to off-label use of medicinal products
816
with indications in adult populations. The situation has improved with the introduction of the paediatric
817
regulation in 2006 (Regulation (EC) No 1901/2006) that places some obligations for the applicant
818
when developing a new medicinal product, in order to ensure that medicines to treat children are
819
appropriately authorised for use in children, and to improve collection of information on the use of
820
medicines in the various subsets of the paediatric population. However, the ongoing limited availability
821
of paediatric formulations may lead to misuse of product formulated for adults.
822
The EMA workshop on medication errors noted that the risk of medication errors is particularly high in
823
specific paediatric groups such as neonates, where age-specific dosing requirements are based on the
824
known influence of ontogeny on the disposition of drugs. The weight of neonates may change rapidly
825
over a short period of time, making the appropriate dose adjustment critical. Differences in the
826
pharmacokinetic (PK) profile of neonates compared to that of older children probably contribute
827
significantly to them being at higher risk of overdose and being less able to tolerate a medication error
828
than older patients. This is largely due to their still-developing hepatic enzyme systems and renal
829
systems, both vital for metabolism and clearance, as well as the variable absorption, delayed gastric
830
emptying and reduced gut motility in neonates.
831
Apart from neonates, the risk of medication errors in paediatric patients may also be increased in
832
circumstances where high risk medicines, specific drug combinations and formulations are used, or
24
Medication errors in hospitalised children. Elizabeth Manias, Sharon Kinney, Noel Cranswick, Allison Williams
Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. 01/2014; 50(1):71-7
25
Bolt R et al, Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 2014, 39, 78–83
26
Padden Elliott J et al, Influence of Viscosity and Consumer Use on Accuracy of Oral Medication Dosing Devices
Journal of Pharmacy Technology, August 2014; vol. 30, 4: pp. 111-117
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833
where untrained healthcare workers are involved, and in transitions of care such as admission and
834
discharge. Paediatric patients with chronic conditions and/or complex medication regimes (e.g. children
835
with learning difficulties, oncology patients) may also be at particular risk of medication error due to
836
the added complexities of dosing or polypharmacy in these patients.
837
Consideration should also be given to the prevention of accidental ingestion or other unintended use of
838
medicinal products by children. A standard statement that medicinal products should be kept out of the
839
sight and reach of all children is included on the labelling for all medicinal products and in practice the
840
use of locked containers or medicine cabinets which cannot be reached by children should be
841
encouraged.
842
6.2.2. Elderly patients
843
The elderly account for 34% of all written prescriptions and are at high risk of medication errors.
844
Elderly patients frequently use multiple medicinal products (polypharmacy) and this can lead to mix-
845
ups and other administration errors. Elderly patients may also have difficulty swallowing, particularly
846
in diseases such as stroke or Parkinson’s disease. This can lead to accidental underdosing, which
847
should be managed appropriately by use of formulations which are easier for such patients to swallow.
848
Other problems which are common in elderly patients and which may increase the risk of medication
849
error include insufficient intake of fluids. There may also be excessive use of over-the-counter (OTC)
850
products, e.g. laxatives or herbal medicinal products, which doctors are likely to be unaware of but
851
pharmacists may be better able establish. Older patients with diabetes may be more likely to have
852
impaired eye sight than younger patients which may have implications for the correct use of insulin
853
pens.
854
Elderly patients, particularly those in shared living environments with caregivers who have
855
responsibility for several patients, may be vulnerable to mix-ups with other patients’ medications.
856
Older patients with manual dexterity issues may also have difficulties opening containers or blisters or
857
in handling medical devices and this should be taken into consideration in product design for medicinal
858
products intended for diseases of old age.
859
It is important the appropriate materials for elderly patients are developed and user-tested, including
860
use of large print text and Braille for patients with impaired eye sight it is also important not to rely
861
solely on the provision of information via the internet, as elderly patients are less likely to make use of
862
such materials than younger patients. For (very) elderly patients, the internet is the least preferred
863
option for provision of educational materials to ensure correct use of a medicinal product. For this age
864
group, the caregiver, nurse and family should play an important role for the correct use of the
865
medicinal product and should be involved pro-actively by the doctor or pharmacist. It is vital that
866
elderly patients are asked explicitly what they want and how they feel about a prescribed medicinal
867
product, rather than imposing a medication without considering the patient’s circumstances and ability
868
to use it safely.
869
6.2.3. Patients with visual impairment or low literacy
870
GVP Module V (Risk Management Systems) highlights that when a medicinal product is likely to be
871
used by a visually impaired population, special consideration should be given to the potential for
872
medication error. Where appropriate, medication error should be included as a safety concern and
873
appropriate risk minimisation measures proposed to address the possibility of medication error due to
874
visual impairment. Patients with low literacy are likely to have difficulty following and understanding
875
instructions for use. This may be a sensitive issue to discuss with patients or their carers and
876
underlines the importance of patients being fully counselled on the use of their medicine by HCPs in
877
preference to being left to educate themselves using printed materials.
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878
6.3. Communication
879
880
6.3.1. General principles of good communication in relation to medicines
information
881
For communication of safety information in product information, the CHMP has issued guidance on the
882
readability of the labelling and package leaflet of medicinal products for human use 27. The standard
883
content and format of the PL is defined in Directive 2001/83/EC and it should be written in simple
884
language, understandable by the layperson. The PL must be up-to-date and reflect all relevant
885
information from the SmPC and be user-tested to show that users can find and understand
886
information. The level of risk should be communicated clearly and listed adverse reactions side-effects
887
should be assigned an appropriate frequency category. The use of the term “unknown” or “not known”
888
in relation to frequencies of ADRs should be avoided whenever possible in the PL as this is not helpful
889
to patients in helping them to understand the degree of risk, and may even raise alarm). It would be
890
better to use language such as “Other side effects which may occur include…” or “Although it is not
891
know exactly how often it occurs…” (or similar) in situations where no frequency has been designated
892
for a given ADR.
893
In 2003, the Committee of Experts on Pharmaceutical Questions created the Expert Group on Safe
894
Medication Practices to review medication safety and to prepare recommendations to specifically
895
prevent adverse events caused by medication errors in European health care. The Expert Group 28 has
896
made a number of recommendations about communicating medicines information to patients. Key to
897
these recommendations is the need to ensure that patient information and format is tailored to those
898
who will receive it and their health literacy levels, not only to adult “standard” consumers. Large-print
899
versions of the PL should be made available on request for partially-sighted people while formats
900
perceptible by hearing should be provided for blind people (although Braille may be appropriate in
901
some cases). The Expert Group also made recommendations on the importance of patient counselling
902
(as the PL can be lengthy and is often not read).
903
It is also important to consider communication on medicines safety for HCPs. This is largely based on
904
information presented in the SmPC, but these documents can be lengthy and they are not always
905
consulted. When the risk for Medication error has been identified and the need for additional
906
communication tools has been identified, educational materials and/or Direct Healthcare Professional
907
communications (DHPC) may highlight key safety information which is important for the prescriber or
908
treating HCPs to be aware of. However, these materials must reach the appropriate users and full use
909
must be made of these materials in order to minimise risk. It is important that a comprehensive
910
communication plan is agreed between MAHs and competent authorities for dissemination of such
911
materials. In some circumstances it may be more efficient to disseminate information through
912
professional bodies rather than directly to HCPs and this should be considered as an option. The
913
effectiveness of these additional measures should be captured and analysed in the PSURs and RMPs.
914
At a European level, the SCOPE project has a dedicated work package 29 which is focussing on risk
915
communications about medicines. Information will be collected on risk communications practice in the
916
EU network to understand the communication channels and tools used, with frequency, strategy, and
917
engagement approaches. A study will also be conducted on the knowledge, attitudes and preferences
918
of target audiences towards different communications tools and channels in Member States to
919
determine the effectiveness of different risk-communication methods. This will be used to develop a
920
series of recommendations in the form of a communications toolbox including guidance for the media
27
http://ec.europa.eu/health/files/eudralex/vol-2/c/2009_01_12_readability_guideline_final_en.pdf
Creation of a better medication safety culture in Europe: Building up safe medication practices', Council of Europe Expert
Group on Safe Medication Practices (2006)
29
http://www.scopejointaction.eu/work-packages/wp6-risk-communications/
28
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921
on scientific risk communication. There will be a particular focus on web portals and development of
922
guidance (informed by the above activities) on the preparation of information for web portals,
923
successful presentation and coordination of information on these platforms in the EU network. Delivery
924
of the toolbox to EU Member States will be supported by training.
925
7. Operation of the EU regulatory network
926
As described in GVP Module VI on management and reporting of adverse reactions to medicinal
927
products, reports of medication errors associated with harm are subject to the normal reporting rules
928
as for individual case safety reports (ICRSs).
929
Medication errors not associated with harm should be discussed in the PSUR and notified as an
930
emerging safety issue if there is an impact on the benefit-risk balance of the product. Detailed
931
guidance on the reporting requirements for medication error and intercepted errors (or near misses) is
932
provided in the Good Practice Guide for the Recording, Coding, Reporting and Assessment of
933
Medication Errors.
934
7.1. Competent authorities in Member States
935
Article 107a of Directive 2001/83/EC imposes a legal obligation on EU Member States to record and
936
report suspected adverse reactions that occur in its territory which are brought to its attention from
937
healthcare professionals and patients. For this purpose EU Member States operate a pharmacovigilance
938
system to collect information on the risks of medicinal products with regard to patients’ or public
939
health, including suspected adverse reactions arising from use of the medicinal product within the
940
terms of the marketing authorisation as well as from use outside the terms of the marketing
941
authorisation, and to adverse reactions associated with occupational exposure [Directive 2001/83/EC,
942
Article 101(1)]. This includes suspected adverse reactions arising from errors with human medicinal
943
products.
944
EU Member States should also take all appropriate measures to encourage patients, doctors,
945
pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to report suspected adverse reactions, including those
946
arising from medication errors, to the national competent authority (Directive 2001/83/EC, Article
947
102). For this purpose patient reporting should be facilitated through the provision of alternative
948
reporting formats (i.e. through various media) in addition to web-based formats which Competent
949
Authorities provide on their national websites.
950
It is particularly important that awareness of this reporting mechanism is raised amongst patients at a
951
national level and national competent authorities should work with National patient safety
952
organisations (PSO) to facilitate this. There are a number of critical factors essential to stimulate the
953
reporting from patients, including clarity about what to report and how, including a feedback
954
mechanism to encourage further engagement.
955
Article 107a(5)of Directive 2001/83/EC outlines the key responsibilities of national competent
956
authorities in relation to the reporting of ADRs associated with medication error:
957
Member States shall ensure that reports of suspected adverse reactions arising from an error
958
associated with the use of a medicinal product that are brought to their attention are made available to
959
the Eudravigilance database and to any authorities, bodies, organisations and/or institutions,
960
responsible for patient safety within that Member State. They shall also ensure that the authorities
961
responsible for medicinal products within that Member State are informed of any suspected adverse
962
reactions brought to the attention of any other authority within that Member State. These reports shall
963
be appropriately identified in the forms referred to in Article 25 of Regulation (EC) No 726/2004.
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964
Furthermore, EU Member States have the obligation to evaluate the information held in their
965
pharmacovigilance system scientifically, to detect any change to a medicine’s risk-benefit balance, to
966
consider options for risk minimisation and prevention and to take regulatory action concerning the
967
marketing authorisation as necessary. The general responsibilities of competent authorities in relation
968
to risk management are outlined in GVP module V and apply likewise to the management of medication
969
errors.
970
7.2. Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC)
971
Article 61a (6) of Regulation (EC) No 726/2004 outlines the mandate of the Pharmacovigilance Risk
972
Assessment Committee (PRAC) which shall cover all aspects of the risk management of the use of
973
medicinal products for human use including the detection, assessment, minimisation and
974
communication relating to the risk of adverse reactions, having due regard to the therapeutic effect of
975
the medicinal product for human use, the design and evaluation of post- authorisation safety studies
976
and pharmacovigilance audit.
977
The PRAC shall be responsible for providing recommendations to the Committee for Medicinal Products
978
for Human Use and the coordination group on any question relating to pharmacovigilance activities in
979
respect of medicinal products for human use and on risk management systems and it shall be
980
responsible for monitoring the effectiveness of those risk management systems (Article 56 (1)(aa) of
981
Regulation (EC) No 726/2004).
982
This includes any risk minimisation measures to prevent or minimise the risk of medication errors,
983
including the assessment of their effectiveness in line with the provisions of GVP module XVI.
984
7.3. Patients and healthcare professionals
985
The EMA workshop on medication errors called for pro-active engagement and capacity building with
986
patient consumer groups and healthcare professionals on a systematic basis to improve safe
987
medication practices. To ensure risk minimisation measures tailored to prevent or minimise medication
988
errors are effective in practice, patients, healthcare professionals but also caregivers and other
989
healthcare providers depending on the healthcare delivery system where the medicinal product is
990
intended to be used, should be included systematically in the design, user testing and communication
991
strategy of risk minimisation measures.
992
7.4. Marketing authorisation applicant or holder
993
MAHs are required to operate a pharmacovigilance system for the fulfilment of pharmacovigilance
994
tasks equivalent to the relevant EU Member State’s pharmacovigilance system. This includes the
995
obligation to collect and collate all solicited and unsolicited reports of suspected adverse reactions,
996
including those arising from errors with human medicinal products, and to evaluate all information
997
scientifically, to consider options for risk minimisation and prevention and to take appropriate
998
measures as necessary. As part of the pharmacovigilance system, the marketing authorisation holder
999
shall operate a risk management system for each medicinal product and monitor the outcome of risk
1000
minimisation measures which are contained in the risk management plan or which are laid down as
1001
conditions of the marketing authorisation (Article 104 of Directive 2001/83/EC), including those
1002
required to prevent or minimise the risk of medication errors.
1003
In line with the recommendations of GVP Module VII medication error reports not associated with an
1004
adverse drug reaction should be included as a summary in the PSUR sub-section VII.B.5.9 2.
1005
‘Medication errors’. This summary could include relevant information on patterns of medication errors
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1006
and potential medication errors based on periodic line listings of case reports which should be made
1007
available by MAHs on request of the National Competent Authority or the Agency.
1008
In line with the recommendations of GVP Module V.B.8.6.4 risk management plan Part II, Module
1009
SVI.4 “Potential for medication errors” should include a stand-alone summary of aggregated data on
1010
medication errors which occurred during the clinical trial programme and/or post-marketing period.
1011
For this purpose it is paramount that MAHs systematically collect and evaluate scientifically reports of
1012
medication errors which are brought to their attention which do not fall in the definition of a reportable
1013
ICSR (i.e. intercepted errors, medication errors without harm and potential errors) and integrate
1014
relevant information about the category (type) of error, the stage of medication process where the
1015
error occurred, any contributing factors (e.g. human factors, healthcare system factors or external
1016
factors) and mitigating factors (e.g. actions or circumstances which prevented or moderated the
1017
progression of an error towards harming the patient) in the evaluation of the risk for the patient and
1018
the appropriate risk minimisation measures(s). Further guidance on this issue is provided in the good
1019
practice guide on the coding and reporting of medication errors.
1020
7.5. European Medicines Agency
1021
Within the EU, the responsibility for authorisation and supervision of medicinal products is shared
1022
between the national competent authorities in EU Member States, the European Commission and the
1023
European Medicines Agency, with the balance of responsibilities depending upon the route of
1024
authorisation.
1025
For centrally authorised products Article 107(1) of Directive 2001/83/EC requires the Agency in
1026
collaboration with EU Member States to monitor the outcome of risk minimisation measures contained
1027
in the RMPs and of the conditions of marketing authorisation (particularly those for the safe and
1028
effective use), to assess updates of the RMP and to monitor the data in the EV database to determine
1029
whether there are new risks or whether the risk have changed and whether those risks impact on the
1030
B/R balance (Article 107h(1) of Directive 2001/83/EC). Also MAHs, national competent authorities and
1031
the Agency shall inform each other in the event of new risks or risks that have changed or changes to
1032
the B/R balance.
1033
These provisions apply to any safety concern including medication errors identified in a risk
1034
management plan for a medicinal product regardless of the route of authorisation.
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1036
Annex 1 – Sources of medication error in medicinal product
design
1037
Tablets
1038
•
1035
A large number of medicinal products are presented in tablet form, which can be associated with
1039
several sources of error. Patients may take the wrong dose in situations where multiple tablet
1040
strengths are available but presented in similar packaging and have a very similar appearance in
1041
terms of colour, size and shape. Similar problems may occur when a product is available in
1042
immediate-release and extended-release formulations but where the packaging and tablet
1043
appearance are very similar. Some medicinal products require a loading dose to be used initially
1044
and later replaced by a lower maintenance dose and adverse events may occur if this down-
1045
titration of dose does not occur. Similarly, up-titration may be required with a lower dose used for
1046
the first few weeks later replaced by a higher maintenance dose (e.g. initiation packs of retigabine
1047
are used for 2 weeks to deliver the initiation dose of 100 mg, three times daily (a total of 300 mg a
1048
day) which is gradually adjusted over the following weeks up to a maximum dose of up to 400 mg
1049
three times daily (a total of 1,200 mg a day).
1050
•
Some tablets include a score-line down the centre so that tablets can be broken into smaller doses,
1051
but the tablets may be difficult to break or not break cleanly, meaning that broken tablets may not
1052
provide the correct dose. Other tablets may not be suitable for breaking (such as those with an
1053
enteric coating) but may be broken or cut and used by patients anyway.
1054
•
1055
1056
The size of tablet may make the medicinal product difficult to swallow for some patients and other
tablets can be irritating to the oesophagus.
•
Tablets are usually presented within foil-sealed blisters or within foil pouches but brittle or fragile
1057
tablets may break if pushed through foil too hard, which can be problematic if only part of the
1058
tablet is taken or if the tablet should not have been crushed/broken (e.g. modified release
1059
preparations). Blister packs may also be difficult to open for patients with dexterity problems with
1060
the potential risk of injury from use of scissors or sharp objects to open the blister packs. Some
1061
formulations are developed for oral administration but should not be swallowed, including sub-
1062
lingual tablets, buccal tablets, melts and oro-dispersible tablets. These dissolve in the mouth,
1063
under the tongue or inside the cheek (e.g. asenapine sublingual tablets are placed under the
1064
tongue and allowed to dissolve; eating and drinking should be avoided for 10 minutes after
1065
administration) but may not dissolve quickly or could be inadvertently swallowed instead of slowly
1066
dissolving, which may affect absorption and efficacy.
1067
•
Some tablets are presented as effervescent formulations which must be dissolved in water before
1068
use but these could be crushed instead of dissolved and attempts may be made to dissolve
1069
(unsuccessfully) in liquids other than water.
1070
Capsules
1071
•
Medicinal products are commonly presented in capsule formulations. Capsule shells are often made
1072
of gelatine which can become brittle if exposed to the air for a long time or if the foil is removed
1073
from blister packs too far in advance of use of the capsule. Capsules may be opened and the
1074
contents sprinkled onto food but this may not be appropriate where the capsule contents may be
1075
irritating to the oesophagus. A number of respiratory medicinal products are presented in capsule
1076
form with the contents of the capsules inhaled through a device; such products may inadvertently
1077
be swallowed by patients.
1078
Oral solutions and suspensions
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1079
•
Solutions or suspensions may require use of dosing devices and these can be associated with
1080
problems; liquid medicinal products measured into plastic dosing spoons can develop a meniscus
1081
which can lead to overdosing and potentially less desirable than a graduated syringe. Liquid
1082
formulations are also likely to be presented with child-resistant-closures to reduce the risk of
1083
children accidently ingesting the medicine within but these can be difficult to open for patients with
1084
manual dexterity problems.
1085
•
1086
Suspensions require shaking to produce homogenous solution before dosing and this is not always
made clear
1087
Other orally administered formulations
1088
•
Some dose forms have been developed for ease of use or administration but these may present
1089
hazards. These include dose forms such as lozenges with integral oro-mucosal applicator or which
1090
have been developed to be chewable and palatable, which could be mistaken for sweets by
1091
children (e.g. fentanyl ‘lollies’). Similarly, medicated chewing gum (e.g. nicotine replacement
1092
therapy) may be mistaken for regular chewing gum which could expose users (and especially
1093
children) to potential harmful doses of nicotine.
1094
Patches
1095
•
The use of medicated patches has increased in recent years but these too may be associated with
1096
medication errors. Patches may be difficult to locate or identify in situ leading to inadvertent
1097
overdose if more patches are applied than is recommended or if patches are left on the skin for
1098
longer than directed (e.g. as occurred with rivastigmine patches, reported in June 2010)
1099
•
Patches which are still pharmaceutically active may become accidentally stuck to other people
1100
(who are then exposed in error). This has occurred with fentanyl patches where in the US, up to
1101
April 2012 thirty cases of paediatric accidental exposure were identified , with children coming into
1102
contact with patches that were loosely attached to or had fallen off of the intended wearer, or that
1103
were stored or disposed of improperly; 10 of these cases resulted in death. There have also been
1104
instances where discarded patches have been thrown away and eaten by children.
1105
•
Patches may be adhered to non-recommended sites which may expose users to a higher dose than
1106
intended and cutting the patch into several pieces for ease of application may reduce the dose and
1107
efficacy or may cause the patch not to work at all.
1108
•
1109
There have also been reports of patches containing metal as part of the adhesive backing causing
skin burns when worn during MRI scans.
1110
Suppositories
1111
•
1112
Non-parenteral formulations such as suppositories and pessaries may be accidentally eaten instead
of being inserted, and may also be used at the wrong sites.
1113
Implants
1114
•
Some products are implanted into the body (e.g. contraceptive implants for insulin infusion pumps)
1115
and there may be errors associated with the insertion of the device or its removal, insertion in the
1116
wrong place(e.g. dexamethasone eye implant misplacement), devices moving or breaking
1117
internally (and perforating tissues), or becoming difficult to locate.
1118
•
1119
Topical products
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1120
•
Topically-applied medicinal products may include those intended for use on the skin or in the eyes
1121
or for rectal or vaginal use via an applicator and the design of the container (or applicator, or both)
1122
is important to ensure these can be applied safely and at the correct dose. Eye drops are often
1123
presented in a bottle or individual single-use droppers but these can be difficult to hold and use for
1124
patients with manual dexterity problems. Related to this, single-use droppers which are broken
1125
open to use may leave sharp edges which could damage the cornea (e.g. as with timolol and
1126
dorzolamide eye drops after the introduction of a new design of dropper, reported in July 2013).
1127
For drops presented in larger bottles, instructions for use vary and patients may squeeze the bottle
1128
excessively and deliver an overdose, which could have serious consequences particularly if
1129
administered at a too-high dose for a prolonged period.
1130
Aerosols and inhaled medicinal products
1131
•
Some medicinal products are presented as an aerosol spray which could get into the eyes or
1132
irritate damaged or broken skin. A common error with orally inhaled medicines presented in
1133
aerosol form (a pressurised metered dose inhaler, pMDI) is patients’ difficulty synchronising
1134
inspiration with inhaler activation, meaning that a full dose may not be inhaled and the medicinal
1135
product may be largely deposited in the mouth instead. By contrast, breath-actuated dry powder
1136
inhalers (DPI) do not require careful timing of actuation and inspiration. However, since DPI rely on
1137
inspiratory airflow, these may be more difficult to use and be less efficacious for patients with poor
1138
respiratory airflow.
1139
•
There are a broad range of inhaler devices available and all differ in their design and function with
1140
the potential for misunderstanding of their operation. Most pMDI require shaking of the container
1141
to mix then pressing of a button to actuate while multiple dose DPIs require ‘priming’ by pressing a
1142
button, sliding a lever or twisting the base of the inhaler. For multiple dose-unit DPIs, the
1143
medicinal product inside must be regularly replaced. Inhalers may stop working altogether if
1144
dropped accidentally and where devices do not have a dose counter available it can be difficult to
1145
tell when the inhaler is empty.
1146
•
Inhalers frequently have a dust cap in place to protect the mouth piece but if this is absent, foreign
1147
bodies may enter the mouthpiece of the inhaler and be inhaled or swallowed when the medicinal
1148
product is next used.
1149
•
Medicinal products given via nebulisers may accidentally get into the eyes if a face mask system is
1150
used, or the nebuliser may become contaminated if not cleaned properly or if the medicinal
1151
products used in it are not handled correctly.
1152
Parenteral medicinal products
1153
•
Parenteral products which require dilution before use may be presented in an apparently ready-to-
1154
use form and could lead to use of a concentrated dose. Some medicinal products requires a
1155
number of diluting steps to achieve the final solution for injection (e.g. mycophenolate mofetil
1156
requires a reconstitution step followed by a dilution step, both with 5% Dextrose Injection USP,
1157
prior to use) which increases the number of stages at which errors in dilution could be made.
1158
Products requiring reconstitution are often presented as a powder or concentrate along with a
1159
solvent/diluent and it is possible that a concentrate-solvent mixture with an unintended
1160
concentration may be achieved if the wrong amounts of concentrate and diluent are mixed. This
1161
can particularly occur if the solvent vial and the concentrate vial each contain an overfill to
1162
compensate for liquid lost during the initial dilution process but the contents are not entirely
1163
mixed. There may be confusion over appropriate dosing when products are provided as
1164
concentrations, with difficulties calculating the correct dose in mg/ml or ml/kg for solutions
1165
presented as a w/v% concentration.
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1166
Presentation of the medicinal products
1167
•
The closure system for containers may be a source of error if solutions intend for topical or oral use
1168
are presented in same way and mistaken for products for injection. Some medicinal products are
1169
presented in a ready to use syringe but the potential for errors can arise if multiple strengths of a
1170
product are presented in a syringe with an identical fill volume.
1171
Examples of medication errors involving Devices
1172
•
1173
1174
administered using a 2ml intravenous syringe instead of a insulin syringe.
•
1175
1176
Patient received a 5ml dose of oral antibiotic syrup intravenously as a result of the dose being
measured and administered using a 5ml intravenous syringe instead of an oral/enteral syringe.
•
1177
1178
Patient received a 100 x overdose and died as a result of an insulin product being measured and
Patient received a subcutaneous injection of adrenaline into the thumb rather than into the
required site of administration due to confusion over how to operate a prefilled syringe device.
•
A patient did not receive their required palliative care analgesic subcutaneous infusion for 6 hours,
1179
as a result of the nurse not correctly operating the syringe driver and setting a rate of infusion of
1180
0ml over 12 hours.
1181
•
A paediatric patient received an overdose of infusion fluid as a result of an adult intravenous
1182
administration set being used instead of a paediatric administration set being used, where 20 drops
1183
= 1ml instead of 60 drops =1ml and the wrong rate of administration was set by gravity infusion.
1184
•
A patient became hypoglycaemic and died as a result of receiving treatment for hypercalcaemia
1185
when an insulin infusion was administered by syringe driver, and the glucose 10% infusion that
1186
should have been administered at the same time was turned off by accident.
1187
•
1188
1189
mis-programmed at 100ml/hour instead of 10ml/hour.
•
1190
1191
An overdose of vasopressor infusion occurred as a result of the volumetric infusion pump being
A 30ml syringe was used in a syringe driver pump instead of a 50ml syringe resulting in a
overdose of a vasodilator infusion.
•
The patient blood pressure failed to be controlled adequately as a result of a normal intravenous
1192
administration set being used in the volumetric infusion pump instead of a low adsorption set
1193
recommended by the manufacture.
1194
•
1195
1196
A patient experienced severe phlebitis as a result of the intravenous antifungal infusion not being
administered via a filter, as recommend by the manufacturer.
•
A patient with obstructive airways disease being treated with nebulised beta agonists went into
1197
respiratory failure as a result of the nebuliser device used to administer his therapy being powered
1198
by oxygen gas rather than medical air.
1199
1200
•
A patient with obstructive airways disease being treated with oxygen therapy went into respiratory
failure because a venture mask delivering the wrong percentage of oxygen was used.
1201
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1203
Annex 2 – Design features which should be considered to
reduce the risk of medication error
1204
Tablets
1205
•
1202
Tablets should differ in size, shape and/or colour and have clear markings if they are of different
1206
strengths, or are available in immediate- and modified-release formulations, or are different
1207
generic formulations of a particular substance
1208
•
Colour conventions should be followed where these have been agreed for a class or group of
1209
medicinal products (e.g. colour coding in the UK for different strengths of warfarin tablets,
1210
applicable to all manufacturers)
1211
Figure 1: different strengths of warfarin
1212
1213
•
Any score-lines for ease of breaking should result in a clean break and tablets that should not be
1214
broken or crushed should not be scored or an easy shape to break; equally, tablets that can be
1215
chewed or crushed without affecting efficacy or causing harm to the patient should be clearly
1216
labelled as such
1217
•
Tablets which are irritating to the oesophagus should be accompanied by clear instructions for use
1218
on avoiding harm (e.g. take with a full glass of water and patient instructed not to lie down after
1219
taking (e.g. alendronate))
1220
•
1221
1222
tablets which have proven difficult to swallow due to size or coating should be reformulated where
possible
•
Tablets/capsules presented in blister packs or in foil should be reformulated where possible to
1223
make them less friable and prone to breaking; if this is not possible, clear instructions for handling
1224
of the tablets (e.g. instructions not to push the tablets/capsules through the foil, or to peel back
1225
foil covering and remove the tablet from the blister) should be included and blister packs should be
1226
designed so that they are easy to open
1227
Capsules
1228
•
Most capsule shells are made of gelatin but other materials (e.g. hypromellose) are available and
1229
may be more suitable than gelatin, particularly if they encapsulate particularly hygroscopic
1230
substances
1231
•
Labelling should highlight the importance of not exposing capsules to air until they are
1232
administered and not opening capsules before use (unless this is an approved way to use the
1233
medicine, e.g. sprinkling on food)
1234
•
Respiratory medicinal products presented in capsule form should carry clear instructions on using
1235
the capsule with the inhaler device, that the capsule should not be swallowed and that only the
1236
approved inhaler device should be used to deliver the medicinal product
1237
Other orally administered formulations
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1238
•
Medicinal products which dissolve on or under the tongue or in the cheek should be accompanied
1239
by clear instructions that the product is now intended to be swallowed and for how long the
1240
medicinal product should be left in place
1241
•
1242
1243
Medicinal products which may be mistaken for sweets should be packaged very plainly and should
carry instructions to keep in a locked container out of reach of children
•
1244
Effervescent formulations should carry clear labelling on what fluids they can be dissolved in and
how long they should be left to dissolve before taking
1245
Patches
1246
•
Patches should carry clear labelling on where they should be applied, how long they should be
1247
applied for, whether they can be cut into smaller sizes and clear instructions on the proper and
1248
safe disposal of the patches (e.g. they should be folded so that the adhesive side of the patch
1249
adheres to itself and then they should be safely discarded)
1250
•
Patches should be a visible colour or patterned (i.e. not skin-coloured or clear) so they can be
1251
clearly seen on the skin and are highly visible if they become detached and drop onto the floor.
1252
This is particularly important for products which are particularly dangerous in overdose (e.g.
1253
fentanyl patches)
1254
•
1255
If patches contain metal foil or parts, this should be clearly indicated in labelling along with a
warning that such patches should be removed in case of a MRI scan
1256
Suppositories, pessaries and implants
1257
•
1258
1259
statement that they should not be swallowed or placed in the mouth
•
1260
1261
Suppositories and pessaries should be accompanied by clear instructions for use and a clear
Clear instructions (including pictures) for handling, insertion, placement, checking of correct siting
and removal of implants should be included in product information
•
Implants should be reformulated as necessary to include tracers allowing for detection by x-ray or
1262
other means (e.g. replacement of Implanon with Nexplanon, which has had barium sulphate added
1263
to make it radio-opaque)
1264
Solutions, suspensions and topically-applied liquids
1265
•
1266
Liquid medicinal products (especially for children) should be supplied with an appropriate
graduated measuring device, such as an oral or enteral dosing syringe (that cannot be connected
1267
to intravenous catheters or ports), dropper dosing cup or spoon. Oral liquid medicinal products
1268
with a narrow therapeutic index should preferably be provided with a dosing syringe.
1269
•
Liquid medicines for patients with manual dexterity problems (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis) should be
1270
presented in containers with medigrip lids or if child-resistant closures (CRC) are necessary, CRCs
1271
with keys (which still allow ease of opening)
1272
•
1273
1274
Single-use eye droppers should be designed in such a way that there are no sharp edges after
opening
•
Bottles containing eye drops should be accompanied by clear instructions (including diagrams) on
1275
how to administer the drops and the importance of not squeezing the bottle if this is not how the
1276
drops should be dispensed from the bottle
1277
Aerosols and inhaled medicinal products
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1278
•
Clear instructions for use of inhalers (including diagrams) should be included in product information
1279
and along with a reminder that patients should be shown how to use the device and that their
1280
inhaler technique should be checked regularly
1281
•
1282
1283
Inhaled steroid medicines should be accompanied by a recommendation to rinse out the mouth
after use to reduce the risk of oral candidiasis
•
MAHs intending to market medicinal products presented as a pMDI should ensure that data on use
1284
with an appropriate spacer device is collected and seek authorisation in conjunction with a spacer
1285
device; and product information should include advice on spacers where this is approved as part of
1286
the SmPC
1287
•
1288
1289
Inhalers with removable dust caps over the mouthpiece should include a reminder in the PL that
the dust cap should be replaced when the product is not in use
•
Solutions for use with a nebuliser should be accompanied by clear instructions for use with various
1290
types of nebuliser (jet and ultrasonic) and steroids and antibiotics for use with a nebuliser should
1291
include a warning not to use with a facemask to avoid contact with the eyes and skin of the face
1292
Products for IV use or parenteral administration
1293
•
The authorised route(s) of administration should be clearly stated in the product information
1294
•
Product information should describe suitable solvents and diluents if supplied as a powder or
1295
concentrate for reconstitution; Products which require dilution should have this clearly marked on
1296
the immediate label along with any incompatibilities
1297
•
Where products consisting of a concentrate and solvent contain an overfill to compensate for liquid
1298
lost during the dilution process, labelling should indicate clearly that the entire contents of the
1299
solvent vial must be added to the concentrate vial
1300
•
1301
1302
product should be administered or else a clear statement that a bolus dose may be given
•
1303
1304
Instructions for use for IV medicines should include clear instructions on the time over which the
If a medicinal product has to be administered within a specific time after reconstitution or dilution
this should be noted in product information
•
Information on the appropriate dilution of solutions should be included in the SmPC and products
1305
requiring dilution require a Technical Information Leaflet (TIL) for use by HCPs to accompany the
1306
PIL; information on dilution should be described in the TIL.
1307
General considerations
1308
•
1309
1310
Medicines for acute use in emergency situations should be presented in a ready-to-use format
without the need for measuring of doses or solutions
•
Where a single substance is available as different branded products or where different strengths
1311
have different indications, product information should highlight clearly any differences in posology
1312
(e.g. daily vs weekly administration of insulin analogues), composition (e.g. different excipients 30,
1313
some of which such as milk proteins, peanut oil may cause allergies), or strength (hybrid
1314
applications).
1315
•
Biosimilar products should be clearly differentiated from each other by use of distinguishing
1316
packaging and prescribed by brand name rather than by INN to minimise inadvertent switching
1317
between products and to allow for effective Pharmacovigilance.
30
http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Scientific_guideline/2009/09/WC500003412.pdf
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