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Medication packaging to come under scrutiny

Dispensing error rates quantified in new report

March 7th 2018

Tagged: Clinical Zone news Pharmacy owners' news England

By Ailsa Colquhoun

GPs will be able to have their say on improvements to the dispensing process, after new research finds that just over 36 per cent of all medication errors in primary care occur at the dispensing stage.

And, in a study of 15 community pharmacies, researchers found that 3.1 per cent of dispensed items contained at least one dispensing error.

In response to the findings, the Department of Health and Social Care initiative will look at how medication packaging can reduce the risk of errors. Healthcare providers will also have to report when potentially inappropriate prescribing (PIP) is linked to a hospital admission. Information on the range of medicines to be covered by the new reporting scheme is expected to be published later in the spring.

In total, 38 per cent of all medication errors occur in primary care. However, just over seven in ten errors (72.1 per cent) are minor with little or no potential for clinical harm. Researchers were unable to state how many prescribing errors are picked up before they reach the patient.

In total in England, there are an estimated 237 million medication errors each year, and just under 16 per cent (15.9%) of these occur at the dispensing stage.  Definitely avoidable ADRs are estimated to cost the NHS around £98.5 million per annum, consuming 181,626 bed-days, causing 712 deaths. Avoidable ADRs may not correspond to medication errors and may include factors such as suboptimal patient adherence to medication and use of over the counter (OTC) medications. PIP rates range from 21.1% in middle-aged adults to a PIP rate of 64.4% in people with dementia.   

  • Packaging and labelling that are more patient-friendly are among the recommendations of the Department of Health and Social Care working group on reducing medication-related harm, along with pharmacist-led information technology interventions (PINCER).

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