Illegible prescriptions remain a significant problem in India

Although the MCI in 2016 made it mandatory for physicians to prescribe drug names in all caps, prescribe generic and brand name drug names when writing prescriptions to patients, the fact remains that physicians do not use capital letters or indicate generic names

Illegible prescription writing by doctors is a major problem that pharmacists as well as patients across the country have been facing for a long time. Even though the Medical Council of India (MCI) and state medical councils have repeatedly requested the fraternity of doctors to write the names of drugs legibly in capital letters in preference to generic names, it is a fact that the majority of healthcare professionals in the country still adhere to their conventional style of prescription writing. In our country, doctors are well aware that most patients do not understand much about the drugs prescribed to them. Most of the patients presented their doctor’s prescription to the pharmacists and went home quietly with the drugs dispensed by the pharmacists. It is well known that the pharmacy is generally run by a graduate boy who replaces the compulsory pharmacist. As if the general chaos at drugstore counters wasn’t enough, pharmaceutical companies have added fuel to the fire with confusing brand names. As one expert so aptly put it, most doctors’ handwriting isn’t much different from an EKG tracing.

It is in this context that the MCI had issued directives on September 28, 2016, requiring doctors to write drugs in capital letters. According to the amendment made to the MCI Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics Rules of 2002, MCI had made it mandatory for physicians to prescribe drug names in capital letters, continuing the same it did. also made it mandatory to prescribe generic and brand names of drugs when writing prescriptions to patients. The MCI guidelines aimed to prevent misdispensing, medication errors and to ensure patient compliance.

Prescriptions written legibly with a generic name and in capital letters would have reduced the dangers to public health due to medication errors. It is common knowledge that an illegible prescription leads to poor dispensing, wrong medication and toxicities, casualties or affects health and huge monetary losses for follow-up treatments as well as hospitalization. The MCI wanted medical professionals who had received instructions from the relevant authorities to write the names of drugs in capital letters in preference to their chemical names. But the fact remains that doctors do not use capital letters or indicate generic names.

Dispensers in pharmacies are baffled to decipher brand names written by doctors. It is alleged that medical professionals prefer advice from medical companies to government directives when it comes to writing their prescriptions. They want to promote the brands, but the brand names are not written clearly for pharmacists to read. Therefore, distribution errors occasionally occur. It has been reported that some pharmacy associations are considering taking legal action against doctors writing illegible prescriptions. The association wanted ongoing guidance from the physician community on the matter, as several dispensing errors occur in hospital and community pharmacies across the state due to physicians writing prescriptions that are illegible. The association cites three recent incidents of dispensing errors that occurred in some hospitals due to the illegible handwriting of drug names by medical professionals.

It is a fact that pharmacists in pharmacies find it difficult to read certain drug names written by doctors, especially some specialists who write only the first two letters and the last two letters with a long line in the middle. This type of illegible prescription writing confuses pharmacists in hospital and community pharmacies, leading to dispensing errors and poor delivery of medications.

It has also been recently reported that due to incomprehensible scribbling of drug names by doctors, government pharmacists as well as private pharmacies are forced to spend time on social media to grasp medical terms through chats. peer-to-peer or over the phone. conversations after forwarding the puzzling prescriptions to the pharmacist community’s social media platforms. It is certain that when medicines are prescribed in capital letters, any literate person will be able to read it and it will no longer remain a secret between the doctor and the pharmacist. Patients or others can ensure that the correct medicine has been dispensed. Thus, there will be no possibility of confusion. Of course, this is a preventable medical error. The government should now take this threat seriously.

(The author is a freelance journalist with varied experience in different fields)

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