International Medication Safety Network (IMSN) – Targeting medication errors

Education / 02 April 2020

Photo: iStock

The International Medication Safety Network has medication errors in its sights, developing and distributing safety practices that promote medication safety.


The International Medication Safety Network (IMSN) is an international organisation created to promote medication safety by sharing incidents of medication errors happening in member countries, along with strategies to prevent them. The network, established in 2006, now has over 25 member countries from all continents (except Antarctica). The IMSN’s first meeting was held in Salamanca, Spain in 2006 and, since then, its annual meetings have been held in many other countries around the world.

“IMSN members are committed to prevent medication errors and foster safer care, and they pledge to work collaboratively to achieve these essential objectives,” said Mike Coen, chair of the IMSN.

“Members learn from each other about their experience of safe practices and help one another to ensure drug products are safe in terms of labelling and packaging. This work is vital, as unsafe labelling and packaging of regulated products is one of the major contributors to and underlying causes of medication errors made by healthcare providers and patients.”

Many of the early network activities were reflected in IMSN position statements that include “Safer Medicines Naming”, “Safer Labelling and Packaging”, “Safer Design of Vaccine Packaging and Labelling”, and “Pharmacovigilance and Medication Errors”. Members can use the members-only blog to communicate and share learning on medication errors.

Cognisant of the need of medicine regulatory agencies to push industry for safer medicine products, including packaging and labelling, the network started expanding membership to healthcare regulators over the last few years. Presently the following regulators are official members: FDA (USA), Health Canada, MHRA (UK), Norwegian Medicines Agency, Singapore Ministry of Health, and Hong Kong Hospital Authority. Other regulators have participated in IMSN meetings and some have filed applications that are in process and expected to be completed soon.

In June 2018, the IMSN and the FDA hosted a two-day summit on safer labelling and packaging at White Oak, in Washington, DC. A total of nine medicine regulators plus the World Health Organization attended the meeting, which resulted in ten recommendations on safe practices being made, which were then included in the development of a white paper on safer labelling and packaging, for global implementation. A follow up session was held at the 14th IMSN annual meeting at Rabat, Morocco in October 2019.

Photo: IMSN

Photo: IMSN

Another milestone the IMSN achieved is the development and promotion of the Global Targeted Medication Safety Practices (GTMSPs) that focus on strategies to prevent three fatal medication errors: vincristine intrathecal injection; concentrated potassium chloride injection; and the misuse of oral methotrexate for non-oncological indications.

About two years ago, the IMSN started expanding the network’s drug safety mission to include working closely with pharmaco­vigilance centres. The primary focus is to share experience and expertise, between medication safety organisations and pharmacovigilance centres, of how to handle medication errors received by pharmacovigilance centres. Strategies and initiatives will be launched such as providing support and training, as well as mutually promoting medication safety best practices.

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Update – April 2020

UMC will soon start to communicate alerts on medication errors in VigiLyze on behalf of the IMSN. IMSN will be responsible for the content of its alerts. Since IMSN is not a member of the WHO Programme for International Drug Monitoring, it will not have access to VigiLyze. UMC will share the findings on this important topic with the WHO programme. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Tags: collaboration, labelling, PatientSafety, practice

David U
General Secretary, International Medication Safety Network Medication Safety Advisor, Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada (ISMP Canada)

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