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Medication Safety Policy Brief
By the Numbers
- Every day in the United States about 165 young kids—or roughly four school busloads of children—are treated in ERs after getting into medication.
- Unintentional ingestion of medications is the leading cause of child poisoning today.
- Among young children, 95 percent of medication-related poisoning visits to emergency rooms are caused by a child ingesting medication while unsupervised.
- Each $43 spent on poison center services saves almost $320 in health care spending.
- More children are brought to emergency rooms for medication poisonings than for motor vehicle crash injuries.
Advocacy at Work
Safe Storage, Safe Dosing, Safe Kids
“Safe Storage, Safe Dosing, Safe Kids,” a 2012 research report from Safe Kids Worldwide, examined trends in morbidity and mortality of medication poisoning among children 14 and under. It was the beginning of a Safe Kids effort to help prevent unintentional medication exposures. The report underscores the challenge of medication-related poisoning among children. Safe Kids also proposes specific roles that all stakeholders can play in improving medication safety through safe storage and safe dosing. “Safe Storage, Safe Dosing, Safe Kids” was made possible with the support of McNeil Consumer Healthcare.
Up and Away
Safe Kids is a national partner in Up and Away and Out of Sight, an educational program led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to remind families of the importance of safe medication storage.
Poison Control Centers
Poison Control Centers (PCC) are a vital part of the nation’s health care system, especially when it comes to child safety. The statistics tell the story. PCCs save lives and tax dollars because so many cases are resolved with phone calls with the centers rather than a much more costly ER visit. It is estimated that it costs about $150 million to run all 57 PCCs nationally, including some federal dollars. However, the federal government has been reducing its investment. While the authorized level is $28.6 million, the appropriations came in $10 million below that level. Safe Kids is calling on appropriators to provide PCCs with the amount set by the authorizing committee.
The toll-free number to reach the PCC in your area is 1-800-222-1222.
Safe Disposal Options
A best practice for all of us is to safely dispose of unused meds, especially when there are kids around. Options to safely and appropriately dispose of unused medicines include: 1) the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Take-Back program and 2) SMARxT DISPOSAL. It is critical that the DEA continue to conduct medication take-backs, and Congress must ensure that the agency has the budgetary capacity to do so. Many Safe Kids coalitions partner with the DEA on Take-Back Days.
Plain Language Labeling and Instructions
Research shows that 59.2 percent of parents have difficulty understanding over-the-counter medication labels. We support FDA’s health literacy focus.