Liquid medication is four times more likely to be taken wrongly by care home residents than capsules or tablets, according to a study.
Pill dispensers have compartments containing doses for a given day or time to simplify drug administration for care home staff and reduce the chance of mistakes.
However, some people have difficulty swallowing things and need to have liquid medicine, as do those who take drugs which require refrigeration.
Researchers were tasked with comparing the number of errors made when care home staff administer drugs to residents.
The study involved 233 residents from 55 UK care homes, selected to provide a representative sample of different sizes, ownership and type of care offered.
Dosing errors were picked up during the course of two drug rounds for each of the residents and from data collected from error reports from a recent previous study of the same group of care home residents.
Tablets or capsules in dispensers accounted for more than half (53%) of medicines given to the residents. Just under a third (29%) of pills were not provided in dispensers. Around one in nine drugs were in liquid form and around 4% were inhalers. The remainder were injectable medicines, creams or eye drops.
The results showed that mistakes were more than four times as likely to be made with a liquid medicine as they were with a pill from a dispenser.
And the likelihood of a mistake was 19 times higher when using a cream, injection or eye drop and more than 33 times as likely when an inhaler was used.
Although the error rate was lower, mistakes were also made with pills. The rate was twice as high for tablets and capsules provided in the manufacturer’s original packing as it was for pills provided in a dispenser.
- Alldred DP, et al. The influence of formulation and medicine delivery system on medication administration errors in care homes for older people. 2011; Advance online.
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