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Mistakes in child drug treatments too high

19th January 2010

A study by the University of London has found that more than one in 10 drug prescriptions issued in hospital to children contained an error.

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The researchers looked at five London hospitals and discovered that 13% of the 3,000 prescriptions they examined contained a mistake.

They also found that one fifth of the drugs prescribed to children at the hospitals in 2004/05 were dispensed inaccurately.

Many of the errors were not harmful, but a small proportion could have had serious consequences. The researchers interceded in five instances to stop a patient being given a potentially harmful dose of medication.

The researchers looked at how medicines were given by nurses to child patients over a two week period on 11 wards.

They found that most of the mistakes involved 'incomplete' prescriptions, although one third were 'dosing errors'.

Study author Professor Ian Wong, of The University of London, said: "It is highly unlikely that the situation has changed since our study was done. That is because prescribing for children is very difficult."

Calculating a prescription for a child patient means a pharmacist has to come up with their own dose, taking into account how old a child is, how much they weigh and what they are suffering from.

Professor Wong added: "It is a challenge working on the ward and humans are bound to make errors. Most would not cause serious harm, but some are potentially fatal."

 

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