Doctor prescription should now be ‘Legible’ and preferably be in ‘Capital Letters’

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After long drawn efforts by a few NGOs and individuals, the government has now notified amendment to the Indian Medical Council Regulations that make it mandatory for Doctor prescriptions to be legible and preferably in capital letters. 

Doctor prescriptions are perhaps the most difficult to read & understand since they are illegible. There have been cases where pharmacists mistook one medicine for another because of the illegible hand writing that led to health complications for patients. After a prolonged struggle by a few NGOs and individuals, the government has now notified amendments to the  ‘Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002’  that makes it mandatory for all doctors to prescribe drugs with generic names legibly and preferably in capital letters.

Not a single complaint till 2012

The Medical Council of India (MCI) and State Medical Councils, are empowered to enquire into the professional conduct of any doctor under the  ‘Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002’. In 2012, the government informed Lok Sabha that the MCI had not received any complaint regarding illegible prescription by a doctor. The government also informed the Lok Sabha in the same year that the MCI has no proposal to direct doctors/medical practitioners to write their prescription in capital letters.

A Pharmacist from Telangana files a case in the AP High Court

In late 2013, a pharmacist by name C Paramathma from the Nalgonda district of the present day Telangana state made a request to the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare with a plea that doctors be directed to write their prescription in capital letters only. He stated in his plea that names of some drugs differ by only a single letter and that illegible prescriptions sometimes lead to pharmacists giving the wrong medicine.

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Though his plea was forwarded to the MCI, there was no response, following which he filed a PIL in the then Andhra Pradesh High Court. In his PIL, he cited a few examples of drugs and how their names differ by a single letter. In the PIL, he also referred to an incident that took place in Telangana where in a Pharmacist mistook MISOPROST 200 for MICROGEST 200 because of the illegible prescription. MICROGEST 200 is for helping women with her pregnancy while MISOPROST is for abortion.

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Disposing the PIL, the AP High Court expressed its inability to pass a favorable order since there was no such requirement by law. However, the court felt the cause is genuine and hence directed the MCI to look into the issue.

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The Government amends the rules

Following the directions of the AP High Court, the government has approved the amendment to the relevant regulation. Towards the end of 2014, the government informed the Lok Sabha that the amendment to the relevant rules is approved. After about 2 years, the government has now notified amendment to the  ‘Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002’  that makes it mandatory for all doctors to prescribe drugs with generic names legibly and preferably in capital letters.

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Any violation of the regulation can be brought to the notice of the MCI or the relevant State Medical Council  who are empowered to enquire into the issue and take appropriate action.

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