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Errors in procedures

May 22, 2012

Dominic Parry

The pharmaceutical industry is full of procedures.  This is why GMP is often jokingly re-named to Great Mountains of Paperwork.  Whilst the importance of having good quality procedures in place is vital I often see a focus on getting small problems with procedures corrected and then often missing the bigger issue – is the document any good?

What is important is that our procedures are accurate and correct.  However I see lots of examples where new versions of procedures are not authorised because of a minor typing error, or typo, such as the word “and” being spelt incorrectly for example.  Whilst it is important that procedures are accurate and easy to understand – we do sometimes get obsessed with having them word-perfect.  This may not be as important as you might think.  Feel free to read the text below – it is full of typos.

“Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a word are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae.”

Most of you will read this and it will make perfect sense.  So perhaps we shouldn’t worry too much about the odd typo in a document if it is not going to cause any problems.

A better area of focus for those reviewing and approving new procedures is to ensure that they actually reflect working practices and are going to be understood by the end-userNot consulting the end-user in the design and content of documents is one of the main reasons (that I see) as to why documents are either not used AND why so many documentation errors occur.


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  1. May 24, 2012

    Very cool post. Something I find even worse than nitpicking grammar and punctuation, is when reviewers/approvers simply sign off on the front page without looking at the content at all! I would almost prefer an overly detailed reviewer rather than someone who is just going through the motions.

  2. May 28, 2012

    You have to be very careful as Documentation errors lead to huge GMP issues. Example: Wrong formulation just because the decimal was inadvertently put in the wrong place messing up the entire formulation, resulting in a failed batch.
    While the minor grammar and punctuation errors, could be corrected by Document Control personnel within a procedural document, the overly detailed reviewer must really reject grammatical and punctuation errors as well if these impact the meaning of the technical, compliance and quality requirements within the document. Sloppy documents must not be accepted.
    Documentation errors could result in serious GMP issues. It is very important the Good Documentation Practices SOPs and/or training clearly defines what is acceptable and what is not.
    Document review procedures should define the requirements for review and approval of documents by Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), Quality Assurance Reviewers, Document Control and other reviewers as applicable to the document. A risk based approach is important and must not be overlooked.
    The document will never be perfect but it must meet technical, compliance and quality requirements.

  3. July 23, 2012

    Hi All I would like to know if there is anywhere I could get my hands on some samples for document errors i.e. the right and wrong way to correct an error, the importance of not leaving blank spaces, how and when to use n/a, etc. any ideas would be greatly appreciated. P.S. I am not directly involved in the industry but prepare individuals to seek work in the industry

  4. David Reynolds #
    January 16, 2013

    I agree with Dominic and also with Shay. But now I am going to be controversial. For documents that are going t be read and followed, mainly BMRs, dispensing procedures, QC tests, I totally agree with Shay. However, a good proportion of SOPs are viewed only when initially trained on, reviewed or when put in front of an inspector. I rarely see operators in the manufacturing area with an SOP in front of them when doing their normal job. BMRs, yes. The folders of SOPs are usually nearby but are only occaisionaly looked at. Even the recent revision of Chapter 4 on Documentation has removed the requirement for SOPs to be available at the point of work! So the questions to ask – (1) Are we writing documents to satisfy regulatory inspectors or to ensure effective manufacturing and a safe product? (2) If the documents are to be used why are people not using them.
    The content of most SOPs consists of several chapters such as responisibilities, definitions etc which take up more pages than the instruction required to do the job!! Why are most companies’ SOPs structed with Title, Scope, Definitions, Responsibilities, Associated Documents, References etc? There is no regulated requirement for them to be structured like this. If a document is to be used make it user friendly and not a tome that has studied to find the bit of information that is needed.

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