American Society of Health-System Pharmacists

View all recommendations from this society

June 1, 2017

Do not prescribe or administer oral liquid medications using teaspoon or tablespoon for measurement; use only milliliters (mL) when measuring with an approved dosing device (e.g., medication cup or oral syringe).

Serious medication errors, including patient deaths, have occurred because oral liquids are prescribed and/or administered using English measurement units such as the teaspoon or tablespoon. For medical professionals, best practice is using units and volume when prescribing a single-agent liquid medication, to be sure the dose is clear; but for administering, use only mL for measuring the amount. Safety organizations and agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) have recommended using only the metric system units (e.g., mL) for measurement and using a measuring device that contains only metric markings. Prescribing using the metric system and dispensing with a metric measuring device will help avoid these preventable errors.


These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.

How The List Was Created

A task force made up of pharmacists from all practice settings was formed. The task force was oriented to the criteria used to establish Choosing Wisely lists and already established recommendations. Based on this information and on their knowledge of how medications are prescribed, dispensed, and administered, the task force developed an initial list of recommendations. Over time this list was vetted, evaluated, researched, and referenced. Through a consensus process over time the list was prioritized down to a total of five recommendations. This list was approved by the ASHP Board of Directors.