Every year, pharmacists at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital prepare a million doses of medicines for thousands of young and often very ill patients. And because many of those medicines don't come in sizes or strengths for use in babies, children and teenagers, the pharmacists and technicians must mix many doses themselves. For some drugs, the smallest error in preparation can be a matter of life and death - so the pharmacy team takes special care to double-check every one.

Now, their team has a new member who adds one more level of safety to the mixing and dispensing of high-risk intravenous drugs like blood thinners and painkillers. But it's not a person. In fact, the new team member is a two-foot-long blue machine called the ValiMed system, which sits on the countertop in the Mott pharmacy. It flashes ultraviolet light into tiny samples of medicines, instantly checking their identity and concentration just before they're sent to a patient. The system is based on the fact that for most drugs a unique "fingerprint,” called a fluorescence signature, can be detected when they are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. Every drug's fingerprint is different.

U-M Pharmacy Services Director Jim Stevenson, Pharm.D., says the ValiMed system eliminates the small amount of potential for human error that remains even with a skilled, trained and experienced pharmacy team.

"No matter what we humans do to check, double-check, and triple-check our work, there's still that chance for an error to slip through - and with children especially there's a lot of drug preparation and the risk to the patient from a medication error can be catastrophic,” says Stevenson. "In this case, the technology can assure us that we're giving the patient the right drug, in the right concentration, just before it goes to the patient's room. It is the ultimate final check.”

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Michigan Health System