Prescribing of zuclopenthixol is on the rise and can now be tracked

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We thank colleagues from Surrey for their case report — ‘Risk of medication errors with zuclopenthixol‘ (The Pharmaceutical Journal online, 13 July 2021) — alerting readers to the risks around the prescribing of zuclopenthixol in primary care.

Data from suggest this safety issue is substantially more widespread than a single case: we have already written on this topic, and have shared a live interactive prescribing dashboard online, which currently shows 87 zuclopenthixol acetate prescription items prescribed and dispensed in primary care over the past 12 months — an increase from 61 items when we wrote about this issue in October 2019.

We have also created a measure of zuclopenthixol acetate prescribing to alert NHS organisations when potentially inappropriate prescribing may have occurred and easily drill down to individual practices. This currently shows that while the vast majority of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have no primary care prescribing of zuclopenthixol acetate in the past six months, 14 of them do. Anyone can check these pages to see if their practice, primary care network (PCN), CCG, sustainability and transformation partnership or region has recently prescribed zuclopenthixol acetate.

OpenPrescribing is a widely used open source tool, with more than 180,000 unique users in the past year. It allows any interested user to see detailed interactive prescribing data in each individual GP practice, CCG or PCN. In 2019, Walker et al. published evidence showing that OpenPrescribing users go on to improve their prescribing. Anyone can sign up to OpenPrescribing email alerts covering their practice or area, and be promptly alerted to any zuclopenthixol acetate prescribing in their organisations on a monthly basis, alongside other measures of prescribing quality, safety and effectiveness. Given the importance of this safety issue, and others, we strongly encourage readers to do so.

Brian MacKenna, Helen J Curtis, Richard Croker, Orla MacDonald, Seb Bacon, Peter Inglesby and Ben Goldacre, The DataLab, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford

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