Department of Pharmacology, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry, India
Background: Medication errors are common but most often preventable events in any health care setup. Studies on medication errors involving chemotherapeutic drugs are limited. Objective: We studied three aspects of medication errors - prescription, transcription and administration errors in 500 cancer patients who received ambulatory cancer chemotherapy at a resource limited setting government hospital attached cancer centre in South India. The frequency of medication errors, their types and the possible reasons for their occurrence were analysed. Design and Methods: Cross-sectional study using direct observation and chart review in anmbulatory day care unit of a Regional Cancer Centre in South India. Prescription charts of 500 patients during a three month time period were studied and errors analysed. Transcription errors were estimated from the nurses records for these 500 patients who were prescribed anticancer medications or premedication to be administered in the day care centre, direct observations were made during drug administration and administration errors analysed. Medical oncologists prescribing anticancer medications and nurses administering medications also participated. Results: A total of 500 patient observations were made and 41.6% medication errors were detected. Among the total observed errors, 114 (54.8%) were prescription errors, 51(24.5%) were transcribing errors and 43 (20.7%) were administration errors. The majority of the prescription errors were due to missing information (45.5%) and administration errors were mainly due to errors in drug reconstitution (55.8%). There were no life threatening events during the observation period since most of the errors were either intercepted before reaching the patient or were trivial. Conclusions: A high rate of potentially harmful medication errors were intercepted at the ambulatory day care unit of our regional cancer centre. Suggestions have been made to reduce errors in the future by adoption of computerised prescriptions and periodic sensitisation of the responsible health personnel.