Share this site! The Safe Patient Project is a Consumers Union campaign focused on eliminating medical harm, improving FDA oversight of prescription drugs and promoting disclosure laws that give information to consumers about health care safety and quality.


Americans have suffered and lost their lives because they are not given ALL information about risks by either manufacturers or the FDA. Pharmaceutical companies should be accountable for safety problems, and not keep drug risks hidden from the public. Medical device companies should respond to malfunctioning implants.

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Consumers Union Documents

  • Letter to House of Representatives regarding 21st Century Cures Legislation

    The undersigned organizations represent healthcare providers, clinical researchers, public health experts, and consumer advocates. We are concerned that the proposed legislation as written fails to ensure a comprehensive and scientifically based approach that supports patients’ access to affordable treatments.

  • Consumer Reports: What can I do if the pharmacy gives me the wrong drug?
    Source: Consumer Reports (Thursday May 8, 2014)

    Tips from Consumer Reports on avoiding medication errors at the pharmacy.

  • Consumers Union comments to FDA regarding direct to consumer TV ads
    Source: Consumers Union (Monday April 21, 2014)

    Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project submitted comments to FDA about a proposed rule to study limiting the list of drug side effects in a TV drug ad. We have concerns about the possibility of limiting major drug side effects in drug ads, and believe the FDA proposed study has design flaws.

  • Consumer Reports investigation: Are too many kids taking antipsychotic drugs?
    Source: Consumer Reports (Wednesday December 11, 2013)

    Consumer Reports investigates antipsychotic drug use in kids. Use is climbing despite questions about how safe the drugs are and how well they work.

  • CR poll: Americans want safer medical devices
    Source: Consumer Reports (Tuesday March 20, 2012)

    Consumer Reports: Americans support stricter safety standards for medical devices, according to a new Consumer Reports poll. More than eight of 10 people in the survey said it was more important to prevent safety problems in the devices than it was to encourage innovation or avoid delays in getting them to market.

Consumers Union News Releases

Blog Posts

  • Congress puts pharma before patient safety with 21st Century Cures

    A bill in Congress has several key provisions that would significantly weaken consumer protections and lead to patients being exposed to potentially unsafe or ineffective drugs and medical devices. Tell your Senators you support safe, effective, and affordable cures.

  • The Truth About Sleeping Pills

    Here’s what you need to know about sleep drugs and the risks.

  • 3 Questions To Ask Your Doctor About Your Medications

    Learn the Risks and Benefits of Any Drug You Take Taking a new medication is a big deal. When a doctor recommends a new prescription, you should walk away knowing why it was prescribed and how you should monitor your symptoms after taking it. The more informed you are as a patient, the easier it will Continue Reading

  • Rethinking the use of Morcellators on Women

    A morcellator is a medical device that seems like it was developed in medieval times as an instrument of torture. But it is actually marketed and used to grind up tissue during laparoscopic hysterectomies and uterine fibroid removal. It becomes problematic if the tissue being shredded is cancerous. The FDA recently issued a safety alert stating, “Morcellating these tumors can spread cancerous tissue internally and significantly worsen the odds of long-term survival.

  • Patient safety activists react to USA Today story on seniors and Rx drugs

    This week’s USA Today story about the problem of overprescribing serious narcotics and pain killers to seniors touched a nerve with Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project activists. According to the story, “hundreds of thousands of the nation’s seniors are misusing prescription drugs, including narcotic painkillers, anxiety medications and other pharmaceuticals, for everything from joint pain Continue Reading

News Articles

  • It pays to read the warnings when you open up a prescription
    Source: Wash. Post (Monday August 3, 2015)

    Barbara Odanaka was hospitalized with pneumonia and was prescribed levofloxacin, an antibiotic in the fluoroquinolone drug class. She was not told about fluoroquinolone toxicity, a disorder of the musculoskeletal system.

  • The 21st Century Cures Act — Will It Take Us Back in Time?
    Source: NEJM (Wednesday June 3, 2015)

    Embedded in the language of the 21st Century Cures Act are some good ideas that could streamline the development and evaluation of new drugs and devices; its call for increased NIH funding may prove to be its most useful component. But political forces have also introduced other provisions that could lead to the approval of drugs and devices that are less safe or effective than existing criteria would permit.

  • The 21st Century Cures Act — Will It Take Us Back in Time?
    Source: NEJM (Wednesday June 3, 2015)

    “Patients and physicians would not benefit from legislation that instead of catapulting us into the future, could actually bring back some of the problems we thought we had left behind in the 20th century.

  • How I Was Prescribed an Unnecessary Antibiotic While Traveling to a Conference on Antibiotic Resistance
    Source: JAMA (Monday August 4, 2014)

    Oh, the irony! Safe Patient Project network member, Dr. Kevin Kavanagh, shares his antibiotic experience in this JAMA Perspective.

  • Doc Confesses He Nearly Took Unnecessary Antibiotics
    Source: Live Science (Monday August 4, 2014)

    The medical profession needs to own up to the problem of antibiotic resistance, writes Dr. Kevin Kavanagh, a doctor that was prescribed unnecessary antibiotics.

Research and Reports

  • Patient Safety America Newsletter (November 2013)
    Source: Patient Safety America (Thursday October 31, 2013)

    Summary from John James: “The devastation wrought by hurricane Sandy leaves us full of empathy for those who lost loved ones and homes. When disaster unfolds suddenly, we notice it as the news media graphically magnifies the events on our TVs. The disaster that comprises much our medical industry quietly unfolds as medical errors occur in hospitals spread across the nation, and no one is there to produce graphic images of the death and suffering. In an attempt to display some of the suffering, my November newsletter begins with a review of the book “Unaccountable” by Marty Makary, MD. I was not fully aware of the endemic nature of the dangers lurking in hospitals.

    The first two articles deal with medical errors – the first on diagnostic errors and the second on errors of omission. On page 3 I take a look at recent misdeeds of big Pharma, and then deal with ethical issues associated post-marketing drug testing on patients. A business model suggests that providers should start giving us what we really want – health – not medical care. Finally, we have a look at why hospital prices continue to escalate. I hope you find these stories informative.”

  • Patient Safety America Newsletter (October 2013)
    Source: Patient Safety America (Wednesday October 2, 2013)

    Summary from John James: “These are frustrating days in our country because it seems that anyone left in the middle ground on major political issues is rare, or at least they dare not speak. As we chide Congress for its ineptness, we must acknowledge that we put those people there, and in most cases they reflect what we want.

    This month I was honored to have my new estimate of harm to hospitalized patients, which was published in the September issue of the Journal of Patient Safety (, picked up Marshall Allen of Pro Publica ( He brought validity to my estimate by asking MDs in the patient safety community what they thought of my work. I have marked his and other sources that wrote about the new estimate with an asterisk in my “SitesLinks” collection this month. There are many examples of medical care gone bad.

    October’s newsletter deals with 1) over-diagnosis of mental illness, 2) the secrets of the medical industry, 3) how unintended consequences can occur when physician performance is measured, 4) the death toll on women from painkillers, 5) the need to stop calling so many things cancer, and 6) the issues associated with high blood pressure and too much sodium.”

  • Patient Safety America Newsletter (September 2013)
    Source: Patient Safety America (Wednesday August 28, 2013)

    John James’ summary: “Young children often grow up in a world where everything is about their needs, both perceived and real. Wise parents work against this self-centered worldview so that by the time children become adults, they understand that they are not the center of the universe. There is one circumstance where this view must be discouraged – medical care. When receiving medical care you should be the center of all that can be reasonably done for your wellbeing – with you giving informed permission for anything invasive.

    In reality, medical care, although headed in the direction of patient-centered care, has a long way to go. My newsletter’s first article demonstrates this reality. The second suggests that intense care is not usually patient-centered for critically ill patients; furthermore, the money we spend on medical care can be misspent, in part due to the fee-for-service scheme that doctors prefer. The third article describes how stress from medical bills can become pervasive, especially for the uninsured.

    The fourth article slams the FDA for not enforcing a law that requires drug makers to do additional testing of their drugs, and a fifth criticizes Congress for not requiring stronger control of compounding companies. The newsletter ends with an article on regulating those who could misinterpret images, and with another article on cancer-drug makers who downplay the side effects of their potent products.”

  • 2014-2015 Targeted Medication Safety Best Practices for Hospitals
    Source: ISMP (Thursday December 12, 2013)

    Institute for Safe Medication Practices report on medication safety best practices for hospitals.

  • Patient Safety America Newsletter (April 2013)
    Source: Patient Safety America (Sunday March 31, 2013)

    Summary by John James: “Changes are long overdue in American healthcare as pointed out by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council in their new book “The US health Disadvantage Relative to Other High-income Countries.” My first newsletter article attempts to summarize this report. In the second article I discuss the risks associated with sleeping pills. The third article considers legislation that often has collateral damage. The fourth involves one doctor’s view of how he was led into care that was not patient centered. My next two articles deal with mental health: 1) As we age, we all fear the loss of mental capabilities, but a new study has linked mid-life fitness with a reduction in the risks of dementia. 2) Young people often do not have access to mental health facilities as pointed out by experts writing in the JAMA. The next articles deal with unintended death from pharmaceuticals and with loss of confidence in drug companies. The newsletter concludes with a short piece on the vanishingly small value of robotic surgery for those who might need a hysterectomy.”