Demystifying medication safety: making sense of the terminology

Res Social Adm Pharm. 2006 Jun;2(2):280-9. doi: 10.1016/j.sapharm.2006.01.001.


Background: Although there is a growing interest in medication safety, there remains much confusion about the terminology used to describe the problem. Some have described the classification of medication safety terminology as haphazard.

Objective: The purpose of this commentary is to help provide some direction by clarifying the terminology.

Methods: A review of the medication safety literature was performed. A description of commonly used terms is provided and the implications of the misuse of terminology are discussed.

Results: There are inconsistencies in the definitions of commonly used terms that may affect the accuracy of event rates. This may have an adverse impact on the establishment of medication safety priorities and on the validity of cross-jurisdictional comparisons.

Conclusions: As the medication safety literature continues to expand, it is imperative that standardized terminology be adopted and used consistently.

MeSH terms

  • Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting Systems
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control*
  • Safety
  • Terminology as Topic*