Poor handwriting putting lives at risk
Violating a High Court directive, healthcare professionals continue to write prescriptions in an illegible manner causing an array of problems for both patients and drugstores.
Problems continue to arise as drugstores fail to decode a sloppily-written prescription, mistaking one prescribed medicine for another similarly-named drug and proceed to dispense the wrong medicine.
"Around 80% of the prescriptions that we receive are sloppily written. It will be less time-consuming and convenient for us if the prescriptions are in block letters or in print," said a salesperson of Lazz Pharma, a popular drugstore in Chittagong.
On January 9, 2017, a High Court bench asked the Directorate General of Health Services and Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council to issue circulars asking doctors to write prescriptions clearly, so that names of the medicine can be understood easily.
Later, Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council and the Directorate General of Health Services issued circulars informing all doctors in the country in this regard.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury said the healthcare professionals are legally and ethically obliged to write prescriptions clearly.
"A misread prescription can result in mistreatment or even death. I can remember that a patient at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) died of wrong medication from a misread prescription. The patient was given anesthetics instead of antihistamine," said Dr Zafrullah.
"Misinterpretation of illegible prescription can also lead to unnecessary tests and procedures, administration of medications at the wrong time, misread diagnoses and an array of other errors. There are 27,000 drug brands in the market and many of their names are closely spelled. The chances of misreading prescriptions will be minimized to some extent if the prescriptions are in generic names instead of brand names," added Dr Zafrullah.
Chittagong Civil Surgeon Dr Azizur Rahman Siddique said: "The problem will go away if the doctors write prescriptions in capital letters or type them out. Poor handwriting can put patients' life at risk. For instance, Voltaren and Ventolin are two completely different medicines. Voltaren is an anti-inflammatory drug to treat pain and inflammatory disease. Contrarily, Ventolin is used to prevent and treat wheezing and shortness of breath caused by breathing problems such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”
Therefore, the doctors should write prescriptions clearly, so that the patients and the drug sellers do not make any mistake, he added.
Advocate Manzill Murshid told Dhaka Tribune that two contempt of court notices were issued in violation of the High Court directive of writing prescriptions in a legible manner.
"Many healthcare professionals write prescriptions in such a manner that the patient and pharmacy staff cannot understand them properly. Incomprehensible prescriptions written by most of the physicians lead the patients to taking wrong medicines, which ultimately affect the life of the common people," he added.