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Press Release
January 24, 2006
John Nash
(843) 792-0687
Kelly James Draganov
(843) 792-4980.


Gift allows Medical University to launch medication safety program

Mrs. Doris Levkoff Meddin

Charleston (January 24, 2006)- Mrs. Doris Levkoff Meddin, of Charleston, has made a gift to the Medical University of South Carolina that will support the newly established Center for Medication Safety of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy and help reduce the number of adverse drug effects (ADEs) experienced by patients statewide.

Mrs. Meddin's gift comes at a critical time for medicine and science, said Rick G. Schnellmann, PhD, professor and chair of the MUSC Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and director of the Center for Medication Safety.

"With the rising importance of drugs as the primary treatment for many diseases, medication safety is a concern which will only intensify in the future," said Schnellmann. "Although drugs can treat or cure disease and improve quality of life, they also can produce unwanted effects, from minor to life-threatening. Such effects may arise from a person's unique reaction to the drug stemming from genetics or illness or by simple drug errors."

Schnellmann cited a 1999 report published by the Institute of Medicine, which attributed almost 7,000 patient deaths annually to medication errors. Children and the elderly are the most susceptible populations to ADEs, he said. "Thus, the focus of the Center for Medication Safety is defined by this recognition that medication safety awareness and prevention of ADEs are high priorities for South Carolina's health care providers."

In an effort to reduce the incidence of ADEs, the Medical University in 2005 began developing plans for a new Center for Medication Safety, which will include three coordinated units. The Pharmacoepidemiologic and Pharmacoeconomics Research Unit will conduct research to identify ADEs that occur through the use of prescription and non-prescription drugs and supplements, individually or in combination, particularly in at-risk populations (elderly and children). This unit also will conduct research on the morbidity, mortality and economic costs associated with ADEs. Another objective of the unit will be to design and investigate systems and approaches to reduce ADEs.

The Pharmacogenomics Research Unit will conduct research to identify mechanisms of ADEs, particularly in at-risk populations. The unit's goal will be to develop a better understanding of how and why certain individuals or populations respond to drugs the way they do. Once investigators understand the genetic basis of certain drug responses, they will be in a stronger position to predict the safety, toxicity and efficacy of drugs and prevent ADEs.

Mrs. Meddin's gift will underwrite the costs of the third component of the Center for Medication Safety, the Education and Outreach Unit. The Doris Levkoff Meddin Medication Safety Education Program will disseminate current and emerging knowledge about ADEs to healthcare professionals and the general public, thus preventing their occurrence and increasing drug safety competency.

Through philanthropy, Mrs. Meddin has tirelessly supported the Medical University, initially through the pediatrics program in 1984, three years before the department had its own Children's Hospital. Her brother, Abner Levkoff, MD, was a pediatrician at the Medical University who organized the establishment of the hospital's first neonatal intensive care unit in 1967.

Medication safety has been a special concern of Mrs. Meddin's. In 1995, she became involved with a program called "Safeguards for Seniors," a national medication safety project spearheaded by the National Council of Jewish Women. At that time, she approached Dr. Johnny Early, then-dean of the MUSC College of Pharmacy, who agreed to help her create a local chapter of the program. Later, in 2005, when she learned of the university's plan to establish the new Center for Medication Safety, she volunteered to provide the philanthropic support needed to finance its implementation.

Schnellmann pointed out that the new center will enable the South Carolina College of Pharmacy to promote safe drug use on a broader basis than was possible through earlier programs. The program already involves a partnership with the University of South Carolina and aims to include Greenville Hospital System, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare and Palmetto Richland Health in Columbia, to name a few.

"The need for a medication safety program is even higher than it was just a decade ago, when Safeguards for Seniors was introduced here," said Schnellmann.

"The potential for error has increased significantly in recent years," he explained. "We've seen significant growth, both in the number of pharmaceutical products on the market and in those populations at the highest risk for experiencing an adverse drug effect - namely, seniors and children. Also, the population as a whole is generally more aware of how serious and prevalent adverse drug reactions are, so we expect demand for this service to be significantly higher than in the past."

"Through both her service and her generosity, Doris Meddin has done so much to advance patient safety in our community," said Raymond S. Greenberg, MD, PhD, president of the Medical University. "We are incredibly honored to have her name associated with a program that means so much to her and that will also allow the Medical University to have a positive impact on the lives of patients throughout the entire state."

The Doris Levkoff Meddin Medication Safety Education Program
The Doris Levkoff Meddin Medication Safety Education Program is an outreach program that will utilize at least three new initiatives to reach those populations most at risk of experiencing an ADE, namely, children and seniors. The first will focus on the underserved, low-income population through education of high-risk populations (seniors and parents/expectant parents) in various locations throughout the state. On a predetermined basis, pharmacists from the South Carolina College of Pharmacy and its partners will visit these areas to educate seniors and new or expectant parents on such issues as safe drug use, the risks of borrowing medications, the importance of correct dosage and where to find information about specific medications.

The second initiative will focus on healthcare providers. Faculty of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy will provide training to physicians, pharmacists, nurses and students on medication safety and establish collaborative working relationships with community physicians, pharmacists and nurses in underserved areas. Discussions and workshops will focus on senior and pediatric drug therapy related issues (i.e., medication management, prevention of dosing errors, effects of growth and development on drug disposition, poison prevention, etc.).

The third initiative will be a medication safety "Hot Line" for healthcare providers in the state. This will be an extension of the well established services that pediatric pharmacists and residents have been providing MUSC Children's Hospital for the past two decades. With the appropriate resources this initiative will be the first in South Carolina, and possibly the first in the United States.

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