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Medication Safety Basics

Overview

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Adverse drug events (ADEs) are a serious public health problem

The Medication Safety Program, housed in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion (DHQP), leads CDC’s national adverse drug events (ADEs) surveillance activities and seeks to translate population-based surveillance data into evidence-based policies and targeted, innovative and collaborative interventions.

Key Facts

Adverse drug events (ADEs) are a serious public health problem. It is estimated that:

  • 82% of American adults take at least one medication and 29% take five or more [1];
  • 700,000 emergency department visits and 120,000 hospitalizations are due to ADEs annually [2];
  • $3.5 billion is spent on extra medical costs of ADEs annually [3];
  • At least 40% of costs of ambulatory (non-hospital settings) ADEs are estimated to be preventable [3].

The numbers of adverse drug events will likely grow due to:

  • Development of new medications
  • Discovery of new uses for older medications
  • Aging American population
  • Increase in the use of medications for disease prevention
  • Increased coverage for prescription medications

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Fact Sheets

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Features

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References

  1. Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University. Patterns of medication use in the United States, 2006. [PDF - 141 KB]
  2. Budnitz DS, Pollock DA, Weidenbach KN, Mendelsohn AB, Schroeder TJ, Annest JL. National surveillance of emergency department visits for outpatient adverse drug events. JAMA 2006;296:1858-66.
  3. Institute of Medicine. Committee on Identifying and Preventing Medication Errors. Preventing Medication Errors, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press 2006.

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