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J Manag Care Pharm. 2012 Jul-Aug;18(6):439-45.

Analysis of liquid medication dose errors made by patients and caregivers using alternative measuring devices.

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Sookmyung Women’s University, Seoul, South Korea.



Patients use several types of devices to measure liquid medication. Using a criterion ranging from a 10% to 40% variation from a target 5 mL for a teaspoon dose, previous studies have found that a considerable proportion of patients or caregivers make errors when dosing liquid medication with measuring devices.


To determine the rate and magnitude of liquid medication dose errors that occur with patient/caregiver use of various measuring devices in a community pharmacy.


Liquid medication measurements by patients or caregivers were observed in a convenience sample of community pharmacy patrons in Korea during a 2-week period in March 2011. Participants included all patients or caregivers (N = 300) who came to the pharmacy to buy over-the-counter liquid medication or to have a liquid medication prescription filled during the study period. The participants were instructed by an investigator who was also a pharmacist to select their preferred measuring devices from 6 alternatives (etched-calibration dosing cup, printed-calibration dosing cup, dosing spoon, syringe, dispensing bottle, or spoon with a bottle adapter) and measure a 5 mL dose of Coben (chlorpheniramine maleate/phenylephrine HCl, Daewoo Pharm. Co., Ltd) syrup using the device of their choice. The investigator used an ISOLAB graduated cylinder (Germany, blue grad, 10 mL) to measure the amount of syrup dispensed by the study participants. Participant characteristics were recorded including gender, age, education level, and relationship to the person for whom the medication was intended.


Of the 300 participants, 257 (85.7%) were female; 286 (95.3%) had at least a high school education; and 282 (94.0%) were caregivers (parent or grandparent) for the patient. The mean (SD) measured dose was 4.949 (0.378) mL for the 300 participants. In analysis of variance of the 6 measuring devices, the greatest difference from the 5 mL target was a mean 5.552 mL for 17 subjects who used the regular (etched) dosing cup and 4.660 mL for the dosing spoon (n = 10; P < 0.001). Doses were within 10% of the 5 mL target volume for 88.7% (n = 266) of the participant samples. Only 34 cases (11.3%) had dose errors greater than 10%, and only 6 cases (2.0%) had a variance of more than 20% from the 5 mL target volume. Dose errors greater than 10% of the target volume were more common for the etched dosing cup (47.1%, n = 8), the dosing spoon (50.0%, n = 5), and the printed dosing cup (30.8%, n = 4), but these 3 devices were used by only 13.3% of the study participants.


Approximately 1 in 10 participants measured doses of liquid medication with a volume error greater than 10%, and these dose errors were more common with the etched dosing cup, the dosing spoon, and the printed dosing cup. Pharmacists have an opportunity to counsel patients or caregivers regarding the appropriate use of measuring devices for liquid medication.

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