Joint Commission warns against dangers of blood thinners

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The Joint Commission has issued an alert on the use of several common blood thinners as a result of some highly publicized medical errors and deaths related to use of the medications.

The alert is focused on heparin, warfarin and enoxaparin. According to the Center for the Advancement of Patient Safety, there have been 70,000 reports of medication errors associated with these types of drugs over the last seven years. Blood-thinning medication is notoriously difficult to correctly dose, and requires frequent blood testing. Blood thinners are commonly prescribed to seniors after some surgeries to prevent blood clotting that could lead to deep vein thrombosis or stroke.

The Joint Commission issued this alert as part of its National Patient Safety Goal, a separate standard the Commission created this year. To reduce complications from these blood thinners, the Commission recommends the following recommendations: Hospitals should standardize prescription practices; facilities should set an acceptable range for dosages and not administer drugs outside this range unless specifically ordered by a physician; and patients should be screened for the appropriateness of taking these drugs.