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According to a recent University of London School of Pharmacy study, hospital doctors make mistakes in more than 1 in 10 prescriptions written for children. Specifically, the researchers analyzed 5 London hospital pediatric wards over a two-week period and found errors in 13.2% of prescriptions written for children. Furthermore, when nurses were responsible for administering drugs, the researchers found that 1 in 5 drugs were incorrectly administered.

Luckily, pharmacists prevented most of the errors from causing harm by cross-checking the prescriptions. However, some of the incorrect prescriptions did get through and some young patients did experience some complications. While most of these complications were not lethal, one child was prescribed medication for epilepsy that was 10 times the correct dosage. Fortunately, the child received only one dose of the potent dosage before the pharmacist caught the error and stopped the treatment.

The researchers cite several reasons for the high number of errors in prescriptions for children, including:

  • Many drugs used in hospitals have never been tested on children, and are not in doses meant for children. Doctors should make dosage determinations based on a child’s weight.
  • The high number of drug administering errors is attributable to the fact that children are often given injections instead of tablets. According to the researchers, injections require mixing up a solution to be injected. However, this is a time-consuming process that requires precision. They therefore recommend that pharmacists take up this responsibility, giving nurses more time to care for patients.

Overall, the results of the study found 391 prescription errors with incomplete prescriptions being the most common mistake, followed by dosing errors. The researchers strongly recommend that electronic prescription systems be introduced to reduce the number of errors. By utilizing an electronic system, pharmacists could check calculations and alert doctors to potential errors. For now, however, they simply remind doctors to be vigilant when writing prescriptions, particulary for children.

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