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Flashcards in Session 1: Safe Prescribing + PK1 Deck (49)
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What are the patient-related problems when it comes to safe-prescribing?

Some problems that could increase the rate of medication errors

[*]    More rapid throughput (turnover) of patients

[*]    New drug developments, extending medicines into new areas

[*]    Increasing complexity of medical care

[*]    Increased specialisation

[*]    Increased use of medicines generally

[*]    Sicker and older patients, more vulnerable to adverse effects


[*]     Increasing numbers

[*]     Elderly patients with:

Co-morbidities (renal/hepatic)
Multiple drugs (therapeutic soup!)
Increased risk of side effects


[*]     Vast numbers of new drugs

[*]     Clinical evidence is usually with drug used in isolation in:

Selected relatively healthier patients
And/or young volunteers initially

[*]     Some side effects come to light only during post marketing surveillance

[*]     Blind adherence to guidelines leads to prescription where contraindications or serious interactions exist. 


What are the doctor-related problems?

No room for error
Expected to be perfect from day 1
Experience from medical school

[*]     Level of teaching

[*]     Level of examining

On-Call Medicine (not only perfect from day 1 but have to do it sleep deprived with limited support)

[*]     Sleep-deprived junior doctors have more attentional failures, and make more clinical errors and incorrect diagnoses

[*]     Exhaustion erases recent learning

[*]     Junior doctors have more road traffic accidents when tired.


[*]     Shift Work and Reduced Hours

  • Lower exposure to teaching etc
  • Working alone more often (due to staffing issues)
  • Less ward teaching and feedback (less team involvement)
  • Poorer morale
  • Lack of continuity of care

[*]     Lack of Pharmacology training

[*]     Too many students!?!?!?

Prescribing On-Call

[*]     Errors more likely to occur

[*]     Rarely know patient

[*]     Routine – “boring jobs”

  • Re-write drug charts
  • Prescribe fluids
  • Prescribe new unfamiliar drugs
  • Prescribe old drugs in absence of results


Compare the Person Approach to the System Approach

[*]     Person Approach

  • Aberrant mental processes
  • “Bad things happen to bad people”
  • Countermeasures centred on person e.g. fear, retraining, litigation, naming and shaming

[*]     System Approach

  • Errors seen as consequences
  • Unable to change human condition
  • Countermeasures centred on barriers and safeguards

When errors occur, rarely due to a single individual. 


Differentiate between Slip, Lapse, Mistake and Violation

Slips: lack of concentration, can be skill-based (erroneous skill)
Lapse: in concentration and memory in giving instructions (erroneous memory)
Mistakes (rule-based)

  • Confuse rules
  • Forget
  • Doesn’t have knowledge base

Violations (intentional). 


Describe the primary components of the Reason's Model

Reason’s Model of Error Causation suggests why errors occur, blaming both the system and the individual, with a further component being a set of defences. Ideally, these defences should be inherent within the system and the individual.

The primary components of the Reason’s Model are:

  • Latent conditions – processes inherent to an organisation or management decisions
  • Error producing conditions – poor environment or lack of communication
  • Active failures – these commonly occur individually and can be either errors or violations. Whilst violations are when an individual intentionally goes against others’ judgement or clinical guidelines, error can be broken down into mistakes (knowledge or ruled based), slips (erroneous performance), or lapses (erroneous memory).
  • The defences in the system can limit the chances or errors occurring. Examples of such defences can be senior reviews, pharmacy reviews, nurses’ review, or electronic system reviews.


Describe the Swiss Cheese Model

A further useful analogy in understanding how errors generated in the system can produce accidents is the ‘Swiss Cheese Model’. The defences put in place are inherently imperfect, allowing “holes” in the “layers” to develop, yet the more defences (safeguards) put in place, the less chance of all the holes lining up. When the holes line up, an error can pass through all the layers and cause a serious adverse event.


How should you write a prescription? What should you consider beforehand?

Before you write a prescription, confirm:

[*]     Name of drug(s)

[*]    Dose
[*]    Strength
[*]    Frequency

[*]     Duration of treatment

[*]     Allergies/adverse effects

[*]    Indication
[*]    Adherence

[*]     GMC Guidance – to prescribe within competencies

Document allergy status
Legal Requirements

[*]     Be written in indelible ink

[*]     Patient identification (x2)

  • Name and address

[*]     DOB (if under 12 – nowadays recommended regardless of age)

[*]    Name and address of practitioner
[*]    Additional requirements for controlled drugs

[*]     Name and address of practitioner

[*]     Additional requirements for controlled drugs


What are the Good Practice Requirements?

[*]     Approved drug name

[*]     Route of administration

[*]    Dose 
[*]    Strength

[*]     Units in full

[*]    Frequency

[*]     Special (additional) instructions

Drug name – ‘generic’ (internationally recognized)

[*]     Generic drugs are supplied

[*]     Brand prescribing increases likelihood of missed doses (pharmacists are unable to give a generic drug)

[*]     Brand name may be misinterpreted

  • Avoid abbreviations
  • Route – multiple?
  • Consider weight of patient when calculating dose
  • Know conversions between dose units (1 microgram is 0.001 milligrams)
  • Talk to patient – tell them about changes made

How do you amend a prescription?

[*]     Depends on type

[*]     Outpatient Rx – sign your amendment

[*]     Re-prescribe rather than just handwrite amendment


What is the Yellow Card Scheme? What should be reported?

The Yellow Card Scheme (considers adverse drug reactions, concept of pharmaco-vigilance)

What should be reported?

[*]     Black triangle drugs and unlicensed herbal preparations

- Report all suspected reactions, however trivial the reaction

[*]     Established products and vaccines

- Report all suspected serious reactions, even if the reaction is well known and recognised

[*]     All paediatric reactions


What is a Black Triangle drug? What is a Serious Reaction?

What is a Black Triangle drug?

[*]     One which is being intensively monitored

[*]     Generally one which has been

  • Newly released
  • Changed indications
  • Changed formulations
  • Combination product

What is a serious reaction?

  • Any reaction which results in or prolongs hospitalisation
  • Serious reactions also include those that are
  • Fatal
  • Life-threatening
  • Disabling
  • Incapacitating


Describe Electronic Prescribing?

  • Increasingly common
  • Ensure you are trained
  • Beware of decision support aids
  • Avoid ‘work arounds’
  • Read the prescription before sending
  • Avoid hand-written alterations (re-prescribe if error)
  • CD’s?


Define Pharmacokinetics, Pharmacodynamics & Pharmacogenetics

  • Pharmacokinetics: study of the movement of a drug into and out of the body “what the body does to the drug”
  • Pharmacodynamics: study of drug effect and mechanisms of action “what the drug does to the body”
  • Pharmacogenetics: the effect of genetic variability on the pharmacokinetics or dynamics of a drug on an individual


Why is Pharmacokinetics essential? Describe translation into clinical practice? What key factors affect PK?

Essential part of drug regulation: MHRA/FDA
Elucidates the mechanisms of drug interactions
Key factors:

[*]    Bio-availability
[*]    Half-life

[*]     Drug elimination

[*]     Intra-subject variability

[*]     Drug-Drug interactions

Translating into clinical practice:

[*]     Understanding about bioavailability leads to the correct formulation

[*]     Estimating half-lives allows dosing regimens to be devised

[*]     Understanding intra-subject variability allows appropriate dosing regimens for special patient groups

[*]     Helps determine why a patient may fail to respond to a treatment

[*]     Or…why a drug has caused toxicity


What are the Four Main Processes involved in Drug Therapy?

  • Pharmaceutical Process: is the drug getting into the patient?
  • Pharmacokinetic Process: is the drug getting to its site of action?
  • Pharmacodynamic Process: is the drug producing the required pharmacological effect?
  • Therapeutic Process: is the pharmacological effect being translated into a therapeutic effect?


List the four stages of the Pharmacokinetic Process?





NB: Therapeutic Window: the range of drug dosages which can treat disease effectively without having toxic effects (TD50/ED50)


What are the routes a drug can be administered?

Drugs can be administered by a number of methods including oral, enteral (enter via the GI tract e.g. sublingual or rectal), or parenteral (any other routes that doesn’t include the GI tract, e.g. via IV, SC or IM).


Absorption: what is meant by F and AUC?

[*]     F = Bioavailability =  the amount of drug which reaches the systemic circulation in an unchanged form (once overcome all barriers to its absorption) relative to that if administered via IV thus can be calculated as (amount of drug reaching systemic circulation / total amount of drug administered)

[*]     For an intravenous bolus, bioavailability is 100%

[*]     For other routes, compare amount reaching the body compartment by that route with intravenous bioavailability i.e. F = AUC(oral)/AUC(IV). This can be used to determine the optimal route a drug needs to be given to reach its therapeutic concentration. It also determines the amount of drug the oral formulation needs to be given in. 

[*]     AUC = Area Under the Curve = Total drug Exposure


What factors affect bioavailability?

[*]    Factors:

  • Drug formulations (long vs short acting; modified release - leads to delayed absorption, more constant beneficial as more constant therapeutic effect - see diagram)
  • Age
  • Food: lipid-soluble > water-soluble
  • Vomiting/malabsorption etc

Consequently bioavailability is subject to variation between patients.

[*]     First pass metabolism (extraction ratio)

When drugs are given orally, both the rate of uptake of a drug and first pass metabolism can affect the peak plasma concentration of the drug and the time it spends in the body. Systemic entry of the drugs can be affected by gastrointestinal motility, splanchnic blood flow, molecular size, pH levels or even presence of active transport systems. 


What is meant by First Pass Metabolism? And where can it occur?

[*]     Any metabolism occurring before the drug enters the systemic circulation (the ‘first-pass’ effect). It can occur in

Gut Lumen

  • Gastric acid, proteolytic enzymes, grapefruit juice
  • E.g. Benzylpenicillin, insulin, ciclosporin

Gut Wall

  • P-glycoprotein efflux pumps drugs out of the intestinal enterocytes back into the lumen e.g. ciclosporin

Liver (via portal venous circulation) - predominantly

  • E.g. Propranolol is extensively metabolised

The result of first pass metabolism is significantly reduced amounts of available drug in the systemic circulation (as measured by the extraction ratio). 


What is meant by Distribution and list the 3 main factors affecting distribution?

Once a drug gets into the bloodstream, it is first distributed around the body over large distances by bulk flow in the bloodstream and then over shorter distances by diffusion. The distribution of a drug refers to its ability to “dissolve” in the body
The main factors affecting the distribution of a drug throughout the body are:

[*]    Lipophilicity/Hydrophilicity

[*]     Protein binding

[*]     Volume of distribution (Vd)


What is meant Lipophilicity/Hydrophilicity?

[*]     The more liphophilic a drug is, the greater it will partition out of the blood plasma into tissues with higher lipid content. Hence, lipid-insoluble drugs are mainly confined to the plasma and interstitial fluid (so do not enter the brain during acute dosing) and lipid-insoluble drugs reach all the body compartments and accumulate in fat. 


What is meant by Protein Binding?

[*]     Once in the systemic circulation, many drugs are bound to circulating proteins

  • Albumin (acidic drugs)
  • Globulins (hormones)
  • Lipoproteins (basic drugs)
  • Acid glycoproteins (basic drugs)

[*]     Most drugs must be unbound (free) to have a pharmacological effect

[*]     Only the fraction of the drug that is not protein-bound can bind to cellular receptors, pass across tissue membranes, gain access to cellular enzymes etc

[*]     Drug Binding to Proteins

  • Free drug determines its action at receptor
  • Displacement of drugs from binding sites causes Protein Binding Drug Interactions


Differentiate between object and precipitant drugs

 Most drugs are protein-bound in the circulation; object drugs (e.g. Warfarin) have number of drugs administered lower than the binding site numbers whereas precipitant drugs (e.g. Phenytoin, aspirin or sulphonamides) have number of molecules administered higher than the number of binding sites, so administration of a precipitant drug will displace binding of object drug. 


When are changes in protein binding important?

[*]     Changes in protein binding can occur, causing changes in drug distribution. These are only important if 3 criteria are met:

  • High protein binding
  • Low Vd
  • Has a narrow therapeutic ratio


What factors affect protein binding?

  • Hypoalbuminaemia
  • Pregnancy
  • Renal failure
  • Displacement by other drugs


Describe Tissue Distribution and what is Vd?

[*]     The body can be divided into separate compartments where separate water is stored and drug molecules must cross barriers in unbound form to enter these different compartments. Within each aqueous compartment, drugs exist in free solution and unbound form.

[*]     The extracellular fluid compartments comprise of plasma (5% of body weight), interstitial fluid (16%), intracellular fluid (35%), and transcellular fluid (2%), with also fat (20%). Passive movement of drugs between these fluid compartments will mainly be determined by lipophilicity, although some drugs are actively carried or transported across these fluid compartments. The apparent ‘volume’ for any given drug is dependent on how much binding capacity there is for a given drug.

[*]     [Text Box: Vd (l/kg) = Total Amount of Drug in the Body Plasma Concentration of Drug (at time = 0)] Drug that is not bound to plasma proteins is available for distribution to the tissues of the body. Some are distributed only to the body fluids, while others are bound extensively in body tissues.

[*]     One measure of distribution is the apparent Volume of distribution (Vd)


What does Vd mean?

[*]     Vd is a measure of how widely a drug is distributed in body tissues – to see how well a drug distributes throughout the body systems.

[*]     It is a hypothetical measure, but it can be useful in understanding dosing regimens e.g. 100mg gentamicin dose, peak plasma concentration 5mg/l, then the Vd will be 20 litres.

[*]     Consequently, if the drug (once injected) cannot leave the plasma compartment, as it is not lipid soluble or is highly plasma bound, then the plasma concentration will remain high and Vd will be low, and conversely if the drug can diffuse out of the plasma compartments and pass into other fluid compartments (taken up by muscle, fat etc), then the plasma concentration will fall and Vd can be very high.

[*]     The larger the Vd, the more the drug distributes throughout the body.

[*]  (half-life) is proportional to Vd (and clearance). Drugs that are confined to the plasma compartment will have a Vd of around^-1, confined to the extracellular fluid around^-1, and throughout the body water grater than^-1.


What else can tissue distribution be affected by?

[*]     Specific receptor sites in tissues

[*]     Regional blood flow

[*]     Active transport

[*]     Disease states

[*]     Drug interactions 


How would you calculate Vd?

[*]     As drug concentration changes over time, in order to effective calculate the Vd, the plasma concentration must be taken as if from t=0. This is calculated by extrapolating along the log drug concentration curve until it reaches t=0 (i.e. ignoring the distribution phase of the drug).

[*]     The Vd is normally expressed in^-1 as units, yet can be expressed just in litres under the assumption of a healthy 70kg individual.

[*]     Vd is likely to be affected by changes in protein binding throughout both fluid and tissue compartments. Acute increases in Vd are seen in sepsis (due to increase in vascular permeability), concurrent drugs (binding sites are taken up by other drugs) or hypoalbuminaemia (amount of unbound drug in the plasma increases, which moves from plasma to other compartments). 


Metabolism: What are the two key areas?

  • Metabolism of a pharmacologically inactive compound to one with pharmacological activity (‘Pro-drugs’):

[*]     Inactive Enalaprilat to active enalapril

[*]     L-Dopa is metabolised to a more active metabolite to improve distribution (crosses blood-brain barrier)

  • Metabolism of a pharmacologically active compound to other active compounds e.g. codeine to morphine/losartan to EXP3174