Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of South Africa (IPASA) member companies have a vested interest in ensuring members of the public use medicines safely this World Patient Safety Day.


Understanding the challenge

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) global public health days offer an opportunity to mobilise support for and draw attention to major health issues. Annual World Patient Safety Day is a global public health awareness day observed on 17 September.

Bada Pharasi, CEO of IPASA explains: “This year’s theme focuses on the threat of medication errors and medication-related harm to patients and health systems.”

Medicines are the most commonly used interventions in healthcare yet inversely, unsafe medication practices and medication-related harm account for as much as 50% of overall preventable harm in medical care. The COVID-19 pandemic, owing to the uncertainty and rampant disinformation surrounding it, triggered an increase in various unsafe medicine practices including excessive polypharmacy, uninformed and often erratic self-medication, and most notably the off-label use of medicines (i.e. using a medicine for an indication other than that for which it was intended by the manufacturer).

Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine were incorrectly touted as prevention or treatment for COVID-19, leading to patients requiring medical attention and hospitalisation in some instances, after self-medicating with the drugs. Highlighting the importance of corrective and educational medication safety-related communication,” adds Pharasi.


Empowering patients

Patients are key stakeholders in this effort to reduce medication-related errors and harm. Tangible change is impossible without empowering patients and families to be actively involved in the safe use of medication.

Below is a list of advice and tips patients should be aware of whenever receiving medicines:

  • Don’t take medicine prescribed for someone else
  • Discard medicine that has passed its expiry date
  • Never exceed the dosage recommendations for adults or children
  • Ask your pharmacist for advice before self-medication
  • Read the patient information leaflets (PILs) included with your medication
  • Avoid off-label medicine use
  • Be aware that some medicines contain addictive drugs


The industry’s contribution

“As an industry, there are various stringent checks and balances in place to guarantee that the medicines developed, marketed, sold and distributed by pharmaceutical companies comply with all the additional legislation, rules and regulations governing drugs and healthcare. International bodies such as the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), and domestic ones such as the Marketing Code Authority (MCA), with which IPASA is affiliated, are integral,” continues Pharasi.

South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) plays a critical role in patient safety too, as an enabler of access to safe, effective and quality health products in South Africa. In 2021 the regulator launched the Med Safety App for the self-reporting of suspected adverse drug reactions. The app is recommended for both patients and healthcare professionals and is an invaluable tool for creating an awareness of medicines, their potential adverse effects and pharmacovigilance.

Effectively promoting patient safety is a collective responsibility. “As the Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of South Africa, we are committed to ensuring access to quality healthcare and creating awareness about medication safety,” concludes Pharasi.