Objectives: Prescribing errors are preventable and are considered an important target for improving healthcare. The aim of this study was to identify prescribing errors and their determinants in a primary care setting.
Methods: Prescriptions with errors were collected on a daily basis by the pharmacy staff during the first two weeks of September 2003 in 18 out of 20 primary care health centers in Bahrain. Prescribing errors were classified as omission (minor and major), commission and integration errors.
Results: Out of 77,511 prescriptions dispensed, 5,959 (7.7%) were identified to contain errors. The frequency of prescribed medication items in 5,959 prescriptions was 16,091. Of these medications, 13,630 (84.7%) were with errors and only 13.2% were written using generic names. Minor errors of omission such as absence of physician's stamp (34.4%), date (9.8%), and information about patients' address (3.8%), age (3.5%) and sex (0.5%) were not specified. Major errors of omission accounted for 93.6% and were as follows: strength/dose (31.0%), length of therapy/ quantity (29.5%), dosage form (19.7%), and frequency of dosing (13.4%). In 6.3% errors of commission (incorrect information) the most common was strength/dose (3.3%), followed by frequency of dosing (2.6%), dosage form (0.3%), and length of therapy/quantity (0.1%). Major errors of omission associated with topical preparations were significantly higher than those with systemic preparations. However, prescriptions with systemic preparations had a higher rate of commission errors. Significant differences in errors were found in prescriptions ordered by family physicians and general practitioners. In 9.2% of prescriptions with errors, potential drug-drug interactions were expected.
Conclusions: This nationwide survey revealed that in primary care, a considerable proportion of prescriptions contained errors. Strategies to minimize medication errors by improving the prescribing skills, adherence to essential drugs list, and use of National Formulary are needed.