Ensuring Good Dispensing Practices. (MDS-3: Managing Access to Medicines and Health Technologies, Chapter 30)
(2012; 17 pages)


Good dispensing practices ensure that an effective form of the correct medicine is delivered to the right patient, in the correct dosage and quantity, with clear instructions, and in a package that maintains the potency of the medicine. Dispensing includes all the activities that occur between the time the prescription is presented and the time the medicine or other prescribed items are issued to the patient.

A safe, clean, and organized working environment provides a basis for good practice. Dispensing must be performed accurately and should be done in an orderly manner, with disciplined use of effective procedures. Care should be taken to read labels accurately. The dispenser must count and measure carefully and guard against contamination of medicines by using clean equipment and never allowing skin contact with the medicines.

Staff members who dispense must be trained in the knowledge, skills, and practices necessary to dispense the range of medicines prescribed at the facility. Their performance should be regularly monitored. Prepackaging medicines can improve efficiency in dispensing. Dispensing can also be improved by routine procedures for safety checking before issuing medicines to patients.

Cost factors inevitably lead to the use of packaging that is less than ideal. The packaging used must be the best compromise between cost and the risk of waste, with regard to maintaining standards of cleanliness.

Labeling is also affected by cost. Labels should contain information about the medicine and its correct use. The style and language of labeling should be appropriate to the needs of the patient.

Ensuring patients’ understanding of how to take their medicines is a primary responsibility of dispensers. Dispensers should check understanding by asking each patient to repeat instructions.

Good records, though sometimes neglected, are an essential part of dispensing; they facilitate good management and monitoring of services provided.

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