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Context  Avoidable drug-related problems (DRPs) cause substantial morbidity, mortality and costs. As most prescription errors are committed by recently graduated doctors, undergraduate training should specifically address DRPs.

Objectives  This study set out to investigate whether a DRP teaching module can reduce prescription errors made by advanced medical students in varying clinical contexts.

Methods  A total of 74 Year 5 medical students (mean age 25 ± 3 years; 24 men, 50 women) participated in a randomised controlled crossover study. Students filled in patients’ prescription charts before and after a special DRP training module and a control intervention. The 1-week training module comprised a seminar on common prescription errors, a prescribing exercise with a standardised paper case patient, drafting of inoperative prescription charts for real patients and discussions with a lecturer. During the observation points, prescription charts for standardised patient cases in different clinical contexts had to be completed. These prescription charts were subsequently analysed by two independent raters using a checklist for common prescription errors.

Results  Prior to training, students committed a mean of 69 ± 12% of the potential prescription errors. This decreased to 29 ± 15% after DRP training (P < 0.001).

Conclusions  Prescription errors can be significantly reduced in a relatively brief training time by implementing a specific DRP teaching module.