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CPSI Share                                                  
9/20/2019 9:00 AM

Maryann Murray's photo#SuperSHIFTER Maryann Murray has taken on an advocacy role in promoting medication safety. Her journey began in 2002, after losing her daughter to a medication incident. That spurred Maryann's interest in reporting of medication incidents in Canada. While a medication reporting system has been in place across the country since the early 1960s, very seldom do adverse medication reactions get reported. The Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act, also known as Vanessa's Law has changed all of that and will contribute to improving the safety of drugs and medical devices used by Canadians. 

What can you tell us about your work in medication safety?

My field of interest has always been on medication safety. As a member of Patients for Patient Safety Canada, a patient-led program of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, I became involved in medication safety at a global level. The Canadian Patient Safety Institute is the Canadian coordinating body for World Health Organization's (WHO) third Global Patient Safety Challenge, Medication Without Harm. The goal of the challenge is to improve medication safety globally by strengthening the systems for reducing medication errors and avoidable medication-related harm. Canada contributes to the challenge through the implementation of multiple actions, like tools, awareness campaigns, webinars, etc., in partnership with many Canadian organizations to improve medication safety.

In June 2016, I was invited to Geneva, Switzerland to speak at a side event on medication safety during the World Health Assembly's annual meeting and to represent the patient perspective. I was able to share the Five Questions to Ask about your Medications with the assembly as an example of a made-in-Canada tool that will save lives.

More recently, I was asked to sit on the Steering Committee that was charged with developing an educational component for the Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act, or Vanessa's Law.

What is Vanessa's Law?

Vanessa's Law is intended to increase drug and medical device safety in Canada by strengthening Health Canada's ability to collect information and to take quick and appropriate action when a serious health risk is identified. By enhancing the collection and analysis of data, Health Canada can accurately determine how many adverse drug reactions or medical device incidents are occurring and take steps to reduce or eliminate similar events. It will be easier to determine which drugs or devices are causing more harm in certain age groups. With the mandatory reporting data Health Canada will have enhanced analysis capabilities, and ultimately, improved patient safety should results.

How have you been involved in promoting Vanessa's Law?

I was asked to sit on the Working Group with representatives from Health Canada, the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada (ISMP Canada) and Health Standards Organization and others to develop four educational modules to support healthcare professionals and healthcare institutions in the identification and reporting of serious adverse drug reactions and medical device incidents.

In addition, we created a module for patients and the public. We want patients and the public to understand why reporting is so important. When they know that a hospital is obligated to report, that helps with accountability. Also, we need to let patients know that they're able to report, where to report, and how to report themselves. The public module outlines what patients should expect to happen on the provider side from within a hospital, and what patients might want to do themselves if they're outside of that setting.

What advice do you have for patients and the public in mandatory reporting?

I want patients to know that they have a right to ask questions and understand the medication or the device that they're going to be receiving. It's important that patients are encouraged to be active partners in their care whenever possible. In the educational module we developed for patients, we provide tips for recognizing harm from a drug or medical device.

We all have a role to play so that even though providers are being told that reporting is now mandatory within a hospital, patients and consumers can also be vigilant about their care, ask questions, and speak up if they think something's wrong. If patients or the public are outside of a hospital, or have a family member in nursing or care home, they are welcome to voluntarily report as well.

Where can healthcare providers, patients and the public access the educational modules, or report an incident?

The educational modules for healthcare providers are available on the Canadian Patient Safety Institute's website.

Click here for the public module

Click on the link to report an adverse reaction or medical device problem  to Health Canada.