Improving the safety of neuromuscular blocking agents: a statement from the USP Safe Medication Use Expert Committee

Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2006 Jan 15;63(2):139-42. doi: 10.2146/ajhp050169.


Purpose: Recommendations of the interdisciplinary Safe Medication Use Expert Committee of the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) to assist health care professionals, manufacturers, and organizations in handling neuromuscular blocking agents (NMBAs) safely and effectively are discussed.

Summary: Review and analysis of the USP Medication Errors Reporting Program and MEDMARX program databases showed a continuing risk of patient harm or death due to errors with NMBAs. Medication errors involving wrong concentrations, wrong doses, wrong drugs, look-alike packaging, and sound-alike names, combined with lack of monitoring and communication, have been associated with the use of NMBAs in health care institutions. Serious adverse events occur when NMBAs are used without adequate safeguards. Recommendations for improving safety were developed through review and discussion of root causes and areas of concern with these medications.

Conclusion: Medical errors with NMBAs continue to result in patient morbidity and mortality. Increased awareness and action on the part of all parties involved are needed to improve the safety of this class of medications.

MeSH terms

  • Drug Labeling / standards
  • Drug Storage / standards
  • Education, Continuing
  • Humans
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control*
  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents / adverse effects
  • Pharmacy Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Pharmacy Service, Hospital / standards
  • Safety Management / organization & administration*
  • Terminology as Topic
  • United States


  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents