The Food and Drug Administration wants to reduce the misuse of medications, saying that at least 50,000 hospitalizations a year could be prevented if physicians, pharmacists, patients and parents used greater care in dispensing and taking drugs.
"When I first started looking at this, I was stunned at the scope of the problem," FDA commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said Wednesday as she announced the new "Safe Use" program.
The Institute of Medicine estimates that at least 1.5 million preventable injuries and deaths result each year from overdosing, mix-ups and unintended exposure to prescription drugs. Children are often the victims -- one study found that, between 2003 and 2006, more than 9,000 children were accidentally exposed to prescription drugs such as codeine and morphine.
The cost of these preventable injuries is estimated at about $4 billion annually by the Institute of Medicine.
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