Patient safety

The third WHO Global Patient Safety Challenge: Medication Without Harm

Unsafe medication practices and medication errors are a leading cause of injury and avoidable harm in health care systems across the world. Globally, the cost associated with medication errors has been estimated at $42 billion USD annually. Errors can occur at different stages of the medication use process. Medication errors occur when weak medication systems and/or human factors such as fatigue, poor environmental conditions or staff shortages affect prescribing, transcribing, dispensing, administration and monitoring practices, which can then result in severe harm, disability and even death. Multiple interventions to address the frequency and impact of medication errors have already been developed, yet their implementation is varied. A wide mobilization of stakeholders supporting sustained actions is required. In response to this, WHO has identified Medication Without Harm as the theme for the third Global Patient Safety Challenge.

Everyone, including patients and health care professionals, has a role to play in ensuring medication safety. This video is part of WHO’s campaign to reduce medication-related harm by improving practices and reducing medication errors.

The third WHO Global Patient Safety Challenge: Medication Without Harm will propose solutions to address many of the obstacles the world faces today to ensure the safety of medication practices. WHO’s goal is to achieve widespread engagement and commitment of WHO Member States and professional bodies around the world to reducing the harm associated with medication.

Medication Without Harm aims to reduce severe avoidable medication-related harm by 50%, globally in the next 5 years. It was formally launched at the Second Global Ministerial Patient Safety Summit in Bonn, Germany on 29 March 2017.

The Strategic Framework of the Global Patient Safety Challenge depicts the four domains of the Challenge: patients and the public, health care professionals, medicines and systems and practices of medication. The framework describes each domain through four subdomains.
The three key action areas –namely polypharmacy, high-risk situations and transitions of care – are relevant in each domain and thus form an inner circle.

The Challenge is coordinated by the WHO Patient Safety and Risk Management unit, of the Service Delivery and Safety department, in collaboration with WHO department of Essential Medicines and Health Products.

For more information, download the Medication Without Harm brochure:

Patient engagement tool

Real-life stories

This collection of stories from patients, families and health care providers shows how they have been affected by medication errors and harm, as well as other stories on what they have done to prevent such errors and harm from reoccuring.

Educational materials

Related links

Key events

Previous Global Patient Safety Challenges