Pharmaceutical companies use a variety of abbreviations to denote short- and long-acting medications. Errors involving the administration of these medications are frequently reported.
This study from Schultz et al., published in the The Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, clearly shows hat abbreviations currently used by manufacturers to differentiate short- and long-acting medications are problematic. Furthermore, it has highlighted the potential consequences of using non-intuitive abbreviations to differentiate medications with different release rates.
The study demonstrates how evidence-based research at the local level, along with feedback and input from front-line staff, can be used to address longstanding problems. Although no strategy can eliminate all errors involving medications with different release rates, this study generated evidence-based solutions that were subsequently implemented to minimise potential errors through more intuitive labelling of medications. The findings from this evaluation are applicable to other organisations seeking to reduce the risk of errors related to medication abbreviations and should also be considered by pharmaceutical companies.