Dispensing errors in community pharmacies in the United Arab Emirates: investigating incidence, types, severity, and causes

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Medication Errors, Pharmacies, Professional Practice, Pharmacists, Patient Safety, Quality of Health Care, Prospective Studies, United Arab Emirates


Background: Medication dispensing is a fundamental function of community pharmacies, and errors that occur during the dispensing process are a major threat to patient safety. However, to date there has been no national study of medication dispensing errors in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Objective: The study aimed to investigate the incidence, types, clinical significance, causes and predictors of medication dispensing errors.

Methods: The study was conducted in randomly selected community pharmacies (n=350) across all regions of UAE over six months using a mixed-method approach, incorporating prospective disguised observation of dispensing errors and interviews with pharmacists regarding the causes of errors. A multidisciplinary committee, which included an otolaryngologist, a general practitioner and a clinical pharmacist, evaluated the severity of errors. SPSS (Version 26) was used for data analysis.

Results: The overall rate of medication dispensing errors was 6.7% (n=30912/ 464222), of which 2.6% (n=12274/464222) were prescription-related errors and 4.1% (n= 18638/464222) pharmacist counselling errors. The most common type of prescription-related errors was wrong quantity (30.0%), whereas the most common pharmacist counselling error was wrong drug (32.1%). The majority of errors were caused by medicine replaced with near expire one (24.7%) followed by look-alike/sound-alike drugs (22.3%). The majority of errors were moderate (46.8%) and minor (44.5%); 8.7% were serious errors. Predictors of medication dispensing errors were: grade A pharmacies (dispensing  60 prescriptions a day (OR 2.1; 95%CI 1.4-3.6; p=0.03) and prescriptions containing ≥4 medication orders (OR 2.5; 95%CI 1.7-4.3; p=0.01).

Conclusions: Medication dispensing errors are common in the UAE and our findings can be generalised and considered as a reference to launch training programmes on safe medication dispensing practice.

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