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Illegible prescriptions still rife despite court directive

Many patients suffer for wrong medication

  • Mohammad Al Amin
  • 25 October, 2021 12:00 AM
  • Print news

Many healthcare professionals continue to write prescriptions illegibly in violation of the High Court directive, causing sufferings for many patients.

“As per the High Court directive, doctors should write prescriptions clearly in capital letters. If they don’t do so, it will be violation of the court order,” Professor Dr Rashid-E-Mahbub, chairman of the National Committee on Health Rights Movement, told the Daily Sun.

“Bangladesh Medical & Dental Council (BM&DC) should take step in this regard,” he added.

Dr Md Jamal Uddin Chowdhury, a member of the BM&DC, said, “There was a High Court directive on writing prescriptions by doctors clearly and readably. Following the directive, we also published a notice in this regard. The doctors should write prescriptions in capital letters or type in computer in a bid to make it clear and readable.”

He said they will discuss the issue in the BM&DC meeting immediately and take steps in this regard.

Talking to the Daily Sun, a number of patients said they face trouble to read prescriptions by many doctors at their private chamber and public and private hospitals.

“Even the pharmacy salesmen of a number of drug stores couldn’t understand the exact names of medicines. Then I return to the doctor who wrote the prescription and asked him to write it clearly,” Rakib, a resident of the city’s Mirpur area, told the Daily Sun.

On January 9, 2017, a High Court bench asked the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council to issue circulars asking doctors to write prescriptions clearly so that medicine names can be understood easily.

Later, the BM&DC in February 2017 issued a circular, asking doctors to write prescriptions in block letters or provide printed prescriptions in compliance with the High Court order.  “Following the High Court order, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) also issued circulars, informing all doctors in the country about writing prescriptions clearly,” Prof Dr Nasima Sultana, additional director general (admin) of the DGHS, told the Daily Sun.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also emphasizes the need for clearly writing prescriptions by doctors as it said badly handwritten prescriptions could lead to mistakes.

“The most important requirement is that the prescriptions be clear. It should be legible and indicate precisely what should be given. Few prescriptions are still written in Latin; the local language is preferred,” the WHO said in its prescription guideline.

According to experts, a prescription is not merely a chit for the patients to buy some items from a pharmacy or other store. Prescription itself is a health care programme implemented by the physician or other health care practitioners for a patient.

They said if any patient takes wrong medicine misunderstanding the prescribed medicine then it may be serious harmful and the side effect may lead to major complications.

“Taking wrong medicine, patients have to face side-effects. Even it may cause major complications,” Dr Md Sayedur Rahman, professor and chairman at Department of Pharmacology of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), told the Daily Sun.

National Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine said illegible writing has plagued both nurses and pharmacists for decades. Physicians are often in a hurry and frequently scribble down orders that are not legible; this often results in major medication mistakes.

Visiting some private and public hospitals and a number of drug stores in the Dhaka city it was found that a number of doctors do not write prescriptions in block letters still.

Salesmen of some drug stores said they found that doctors of only a few hospitals and some private practitioners provided printed prescriptions.

“I found many prescriptions written in small letters and illegible also. Rarely prescriptions are printed while very few prescriptions written in block letters,” Selim Hossain, a senior salesman for Swapnodana Pharmacy in Mirpur area of the capital.

According to a study, each year, in the United States alone, 7,000 to 9,000 people die due to a medication error. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of other patients experience but often do not report an adverse reaction or other complications related to a medication.

The experts said it is an ethical matter for the doctors that they should write prescription clearly and readable for both drug stores and for patients. The doctors also should be very careful to write prescription.

They also said the authority should monitor the matter and build awareness among the doctors to write legible prescription in block letters or give the prescription in printed version.