Reducing Medication Errors in South Carolina goal of New Center of Economic Excellence

September 18, 2008

COLUMBIA, SC – September 18, 2008 – Medications harm millions of people each year through adverse effects, misuse or medication errors. Many of these errors are made in hospitals and other health care settings, according to the Institute of Medicine (part of the National Academies of Science). Medication errors not only create consequences for patients—ranging from mild reactions to death—but also raise medical costs by billions of dollars annually because of the additional treatment required for drug-related injuries. In addition, medication errors are one of the top ten medical malpractice claims, according to Hospitals and Health Networks magazine.
A new South Carolina Center of Economic Excellence (CoEE) will help tackle this problem. The CoEE in Medication Safety and Efficacy will work to increase drug safety and effectiveness and decrease medication errors in South Carolina by identifying the incidence and significance of adverse drug events (ADEs) that occur with prescription and non-prescription drugs, according to center director Rick Schnellmann. This knowledge will be used to provide vital data to hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and state and federal agencies (such as Medicaid and Medicare); these organizations and agencies will be able to use this data in epidemiological and economic studies that will help lead to fewer drug injuries and improved drug effectiveness in South Carolina.
The Center is a collaboration between the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and the University of South Carolina (USC).The CoEE was approved to receive $2 million in S.C. Education Lottery funds earlier this month by the board that oversees the CoEE Program. CoEE is an initiative created by the S.C. General Assembly in 2002 that invests lottery funds to create research centers at the state’s three research universities (Clemson University, MUSC and USC) and to attract world-renowned scientists or “endowed chairs” to South Carolina The end goal of the program is to create high-paying jobs in South Carolina and improve the standard of living for citizens. Health Sciences South Carolina, a statewide collaborative that works to improve the health and economic well being of the state, is providing matching financial support for the Center.
“At USC, we are excited to work with MUSC and HSSC to create a nationally prominent research center,” says USC Interim Vice President for Research Dr. Rose Booze. “We believe that the innovative work at this center can make a difference in the lives of South Carolinians by dramatically reducing the number of medication errors.”
An expert in pharmacoepidemiology and economics will be recruited to lead the CoEE. This CoEE endowed chair-holder will be also be tasked with increasing federal funding to South Carolina for research in this field. Pharmacoepidemiology is the study of the use and effects of drugs in large numbers of people. The Center will be housed at the South Carolina College of Pharmacy, which was founded by MUSC and USC.
The research produced by the Medication Safety and Efficacy CoEE is expected to have significant cost-saving benefits for the state.
“We believe that the proper dissemination of drug information through patient-provider partnerships and new and improved drug information resources could reduce health care costs in S.C. by 10 percent over the next 5-10 years,” says Dr. John Raymond, vice president for academic affairs and provost at MUSC.
Nationwide, the cost of drug-related death and disease from medication errors and ADEs could be as high as $177 billion (in year 2000 values), according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Other prospective benefits the Center could have for South Carolina include increased extramural research funding, job creation at the CoEE and via start-up companies based upon the Center’s intellectual property, and investments from out-of-state healthcare companies.
“South Carolina is striving to assume a leadership role in developing technology capability, knowledge resources, faculty expertise and advanced programs in the field of pharmacoepidemiology and economic research,” said CoEE Review Board Chair Paula Harper Bethea. “Not only does this area offer the potential to generate highly technical start-up companies, but more importantly, it also will help prevent mistakes that needlessly hurt and even kill so many people in this state and across the U.S.”
About the CoEE Program
The S.C. Centers of Economic Excellence Program was established by the South Carolina General Assembly in 2002, funded through South Carolina Education Lottery proceeds. The legislation authorizes the state’s three public research institutions, Medical University of South Carolina, Clemson University and the University of South Carolina, to use state funds to create Centers of Economic Excellence in research areas that will advance South Carolina’s economy. Each Center of Economic Excellence is awarded from $2 million to $5 million in state funds, which must be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis with non-state funds. The program also supports CoEE endowed chairs, world-renowned scientists who lead the Centers of Economic Excellence. By investing in talent and technology, the CoEE Program is designed to fuel the state’s knowledge-based economy, resulting in high-paying jobs and an improved standard of living in South Carolina. For more information, visit
About HSSC
Established in April 2004, Health Sciences South Carolina (HSSC) is a statewide public-private collaborative of universities and health systems possessing a shared vision of using health sciences research to improve the health and economic wellbeing of South Carolina. HSSC includes Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina, the University of South Carolina, Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center, Palmetto Health and Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System. For more information about HSSC, visit