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USP launches MedMARx® as the third major national reporting program for adverse drug events

From the June 17 , 1998 issue

Soon there will be three national reporting programs for adverse drug events (ADEs). Many practitioners are already familiar with the FDA MEDWATCH Program and the USP Medication Errors Reporting Program (MERP) which is operated in cooperation with ISMP. To enhance these two programs, USP has developed an Internet-accessible method for hospitals to anonymously report and track medication errors in a standard format. The software program, MedMARx®, permits users to track errors within their organization as well as learn from the anonymous experiences of others by searching an aggregate database. (Hospitals interested in this program can contact USP for additional information at 301 881 0666).

MedMARx is designed to augment, not replace, the USP MERP and FDA MEDWATCH. While these programs complement each other well, each serves a different purpose. MedMARx lets hospitals internally monitor the progress of their error prevention strategies and share their successes with others while maintaining awareness of problems and solutions reported by other institutions. Total anonymity of the program overcomes one of the major obstacles to reporting and sharing incident report information and experiences among facilities. This will help national efforts at error reduction and provide useful numerical information about errors. USP is exploring ways for both FDA and ISMP to access the MedMARx database

Still, while this additional information is critical to preventing similar errors nationwide, total anonymity inhibits direct communication with ISMP, USP or FDA. Information may be overlooked during the error analysis and reporting process, and relevant materials such as copies of prescriptions/orders or product labels will not be available for review. Thus, timely and effective educational efforts, and action with the pharmaceutical industry, may be more difficult. Also, situations that could potentially lead to an error, such as look-alike drug names or unclear labeling, are rarely reported through the hospital's existing reporting program. These issues are unlikely to reach the MedMARx database.

The USP MERP provides a mechanism for individual practitioners to report actual and potential medication errors. Identifying information remains confidential to external parties. Practitioners can choose total anonymity or can report their names to USP, ISMP, FDA and/or pharmaceutical manufacturers so that they can be contacted for additional information. Since the ability of USP, ISMP and FDA to directly communicate with practitioners is vital to successful error prevention efforts, we urge individual practitioners to continue reporting potential and actual errors to the USP MERP, even if the hospital is subscribing to MedMARx.

The FDA MEDWATCH Program is primarily focused on post-marketing surveillance through practitioner reporting of adverse drug reactions. USP shares MERP information with FDA. However, FDA MEDWATCH shares only aggregate periodic data with USP and ISMP. Reporters are not identified, making direct communication impossible. Therefore, we urge practitioners to report medication errors to the USP MERP. FDA MEDWATCH will automatically receive the information if it is reported to USP. Report adverse drug reactions to FDA MEDWATCH.

With practitioners reporting ADEs through each of these three national reporting programs, the experiences of others can be used to its fullest capacity to help prevent medication errors and adverse drug reactions.

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