A systematic review of the prevalence and incidence of prescribing errors with high‐risk medicines in hospitals

Research paper by M. A. Alanazi BPharm MSc, M. P. Tully BSc (Hons) MSc PhD, P. J. Lewis MPharm PhD

Indexed on: 12 May '16Published on: 11 May '16Published in: Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics


Prescribing errors are the most common type of error in the medication use process. However, there is a paucity of literature regarding the prevalence or incidence of prescribing errors in high‐risk medicines (HRMs). HRMs bear a heightened risk of causing significant patient harm when they are used in error.The aim of this research was to systematically investigate the literature regarding the prevalence and incidence of prescribing errors in HRMs in inpatient settings.A search strategy was developed based on four categories of keywords: prescribing errors, HRMs, hospital inpatients, and prevalence or incidence. All keywords were searched for in Medline, Embase, Cochrane and the International Pharmaceutical Abstracts. The search was limited to English quantitative studies that reported the incidence or prevalence of prescribing errors by medical prescribers, whether they were seniors or juniors, since 1985.Of the 3507 records identified, nine studies met the review criteria. The most frequent denominator in the included studies was medication orders, in eight studies, ranged from 0·24 to 89·6 errors per 100 orders of HRMs. Two studies reported 107 and 218 errors per 100 admissions prescribed HRMs, and one study reported 27·2 errors per 100 prescriptions with a HRM. The incidence of prescribing errors could not be calculated.The prevalence of prescribing errors in HRMs in the inpatient setting has a very wide range that reflects the different data collection methods used within the included studies. Future studies in prescribing errors should use standardized approaches to enable comparison.