A May 2012 study conducted in the United Kingdom by the General Medical Council shows that approximately one in six prescriptions by general practitioners (GPs) contains some kind of error. This translates into about 45 million errors a year.
The vast majority of these errors are considered minor, such as the physician not following up on monitoring the patient. Also common were not writing down the dose or the frequency of the treatment, which can result in serious problems if not addressed by the pharmacist. Pharmacists correct most mistakes when filling the prescriptions, but errors do still happen.
The study included 1777 patients at 15 GPs’ locations in three different parts of the UK. Of these, most errors had no effect on the patients’ well being. There were, however, two cases where patients were given medications to which they had known allergies. Also, an elderly patient was admitted for stomach bleeding as a result of taking an NSAID (click here to find out What are NSAIDs?) Stomach bleeding is a well-documented side effect of NSAIDs.
The General Medical Council puts patient safety at the top of their priorities, and they are working on a program to prevent a large portion of the prescription errors. More effective computer systems are one step that they mean to take. Likewise, the Royal Pharmaceutical society is calling on all GPs to have a pharmacist on location to confer with doctors.
It also needs to be pointed out that most prescription are correct, and even those prescriptions that contain errors are often addressed when the pharmacist gives out the medications. Also, individuals 75 or older are most prone to see prescription errors as they tend to be taking more medications. Between systematic improvements and patient caution, the issue can be largely avoided.
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