High Rate of Errors in Handwritten Opioid Prescriptions

HealthDay News — For adults receiving opioid medication prescriptions, errors are common, and most often occur on handwritten prescriptions, according to research published recently in the Journal of Opioid Management.1

Mark C Bicket, MD, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues conducted a retrospective review of opioid prescriptions processed at an outpatient pharmacy. They examined 510 consecutive opioid medication prescriptions for adult patients processed in June 2016.

The researchers found that oxycodone was the most commonly prescribed opioid (71%), which was not usually combined with acetaminophen. Ninety-two percent of the sample was prescribed tablet formulation, averaging 57 pills. For 42% of prescriptions there was at least 1 error. Nine percent of prescriptions deviated from best practice guidelines, 21% did not include 2 patient identifiers, and 41% were not compliant with the Drug Enforcement Agency rules.

Errors occurred in 89% of handwritten prescriptions, 0% electronic health record (EHR) computer-generated prescriptions, and 12% of non-EHR computer-generated prescriptions, respectively. 

“Inconsistencies in opioid prescribing remain common,” the authors write. “Handwritten prescriptions continue to demonstrate higher associations of errors, discrepancies, and variation from ideal practice and government regulations.”

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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  1. Bicket MC, Kattail D, Yaster M, Wu CL, Pronovost P. An analysis of errors, discrepancies, and variation in opioid prescriptions for adult outpatients at a teaching hospital. J Opioid Manag. 2017; 13(1);51-57.