Clarity in medical prescription must

Clarity in medical prescription must

The threat of illegible medical prescriptions being misinterpreted and resulting in dire consequences – at times, even death – is becoming alarmingly real. The Union Health Ministry’s reported move to mandate doctors to prescribe medicines in a legible manner, and in capital letters, comes as a welcome step. A comprehensive state-compiled database on prescription errors, consequences and related grievances is yet to materialise in India. But the sheer number of incidents involving errors in prescription and dispensing of medicines reported from across the country calls for an initiative that addresses the threat on more assertive yet rational terms. The ministry is learnt to be proposing a system where the doctors themselves come forward to endorse the change; while it is expected to notify the changes as amended in the Medical Council of India (MCI) guidelines, the stipulation on capital letters is likely to come as a “preferable option”.

A MCI model prescription format that also incorporates the capital letter stipulation is already in place. With the ministry stamping approval, it could translate into a stricture that comes with its share of problems. The onus is on the MCI to ensure that doctors are taken into confidence on the proposal. The move toward more legible medical prescriptions should also be complemented with better dispensing mechanisms. There have been reports of unqualified medical store staff dispensing drugs, at times leading to complications in dosage. There is need to ensure that only competent pharmacists dispense medicines at stores to achieve zero-error efficiency. Further, doctors at understaffed hospitals, who grapple with the daily rush of patients, could also look at the shift to capital-letter prescriptions as an added load. Here, a unified system of electronic prescriptions and health records could prove a viable alternative over the next decade. In the context of the ministry’s move, the ever rising need for more doctors in government hospitals to ease the rush of patients is worth pursuing.

The health ministry is also expected to approve guidelines that recommend inclusion of generic names of drugs in prescriptions. Representatives of doctors’ organisations have repeatedly sought leniency on this long-standing recommendation and maintained that there could be practical issues and inconsistencies involved in prescription of generic drug names; the proposal could work with, say, a paracetamol medicine with branded variants but is not a credible option for multi-drug combinations. Guidelines have to be clear that generic drug names could be included only along with the prescribed brand of medicine. The workability of the model is debate for another day but reasons to look at it as a pragmatic and tenable move appear compelling. 
DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
GET IT
Comments (+)