Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Over 80,000 prescription errors reported in Pakistan during last year

Islamabad's chief drug inspector says medication errors sixth leading cause of death in developed countries like US

Customers buy medicine from a medical supply store in Karachi, Pakistan February 9, 2023. — Reuters
Customers buy medicine from a medical supply store in Karachi, Pakistan February 9, 2023. — Reuters  

  • Errors reported at three leading health facilities in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.
  • 96% errors accepted, recognised by prescribing physicians, surgeons.
  • "Medication errors sixth leading cause of death in developed countries."

ISLAMABAD: Over 80,000 prescription errors have been reported in Pakistan during the last year at three leading health facilities in Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi where physicians and surgeons prescribed either a wrong medicine, wrong dose, or did not care about drug-drug interaction which could have proved fatal for the patients. 

This was revealed in a report by clinical pharmacists during a ceremony to mark the World Pharmacists Day 2023 on Tuesday, The News reported. 

“Of these 80,000 prescription errors, 96% errors were accepted and recognised by the prescribing physicians and surgeons and they rectified their prescriptions in consultation with clinical pharmacists to ensure patient safety," Sardar Shabbir Ahmed, President of the Pakistan Pharmacists Association (PPA), said. 

Senior government officials, including Additional Secretary Health Kamran Rehman Khan, Vice Chancellor Health Services Academy (HSA) Prof Shahzad Ali Khan, Director Registration from Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) Fakhruddin Amir, senior pharmacists and other officials, attended the ceremony.

Sardar Shabbir Ahmed, Chief Drug Inspector, Islamabad, maintained that medication errors were the sixth leading cause of death in developed countries like the United States where around 7,000-9,000 people annually die as a result of medication errors.

Additionally, hundreds of thousands of other patients experience but often do not report an adverse reaction or other medication complications, he said, adding that the total cost of looking after patients with medication-associated errors exceeds $40 billion each year in the US alone.

“In these circumstances, there is an urgent need to introduce clinical pharmacy services at all the public and private health facilities to prevent deaths and disabilities due to medication errors and adverse drug reactions”, he said, adding that promotion of community pharmacy services could also help in managing Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), including diabetes and hypertension in Pakistan.

The Pharmacists Association president further called for the establishment of pharmacovigilance centres across Pakistan to detect, monitor and prevent adverse drug reactions to ensure patient safety.

Prof Khan also highlighted the role of pharmacists in patient safety, saying at a time when patients were being overburdened with ‘irrational prescriptions’ by physicians and surgeons, trained and qualified pharmacists could prevent patients from physical and financial harm.

“All I want to advise the pharmacists of Pakistan to build their capacity and get the knowledge so that they could challenge the physicians and surgeons who often commit errors while prescribing medicines to the patients”, he said.

“Doctors’ job is to diagnose a disease while it is the pharmacists’ duty to prescribe the right medicine in the right dose for the cure,” he added.

He maintained that many departments and programs which were currently run by the doctors, including the immunisation program, should be managed and run by trained and qualified pharmacists like in other countries of the world and added that the role of pharmacists was also very important in ensuring access to medicines in the country.

“Unfortunately, in most of the hospitals, pharmacists are engaged in preparing lists of medicines for tenders; they are assigned the role of storekeepers and dispensing medicines to the patients. This is not the role and responsibility of a pharmacist”, he said and urged pharmacists to come up with innovative ideas to become entrepreneurs instead of job seekers.

Additional Secretary Health Kamran Rehman Khan deplored that although there were around 670 pharmaceutical companies registered with the DRAP in Pakistan, hardly 10 companies were able to export their products to the stringent markets as the majority were not following the international standards and good manufacturing practices in the pharmaceutical industry.

“Pharmacists can play an important role in introducing good manufacturing practices in our pharmaceutical industry and make our drugs acceptable for the entire world”, he said, adding that with better quality medicines, Pakistan could earn billions of dollars by exporting medicines to the world, especially the African countries.

DRAP official Amir, Zafar Bakhtawari, Ahsan Bakhtawari, and office-bearers of the PPA also spoke during the ceremony.