Is Your Medicine Really What Doctor Ordered?

Armen Hareyan's picture

Patients who fill their prescriptions while traveling abroad need to be cautious.

Unlike approved generic drug names, brand names of drugs are not standardized internationally. Therefore, consumers should not assume that a branded product in one country is the same as a product with the same or similar brand name in other counties.


A new study by regulatory officers of the Food & Drugs Control Administration, Gujarat State (India), identified nearly 80 drug brand names that are either identical or similar to drugs found around the world, but contain different ingredients as well as varying dosage forms. Health professionals dispensing medications based on the brand name only may misinterpret the drug the patient needs, if their country uses that same or similar brand name for a different drug.

Researchers are advocating for the creation of an international organization or the procedure to regulate the naming of drugs and to maintain a global brand name database to avoid medication errors. This process could take years. In the meantime, when traveling internationally, patients should always ask their doctor for the generic name, ingredients and the dosage when receiving a prescription in order to double-check that the drug being dispensed is actually the drug prescribed. Taking these precautions prior to purchasing medicine can prevent serious health injuries.

The study analyzed and compiled data from the leading 2006 international drug formularies and databases. One example of a misleading brand name identified in the U.S. is Arrestine, made by Vortech, which is prescribed for nausea and vomiting. In India, Arrestine, the same name but different drug made by Svizera, is being sold for pain and inflammation and contains different ingredients. The list below shows several other examples of misleading U.S. brand names that contain different ingredients in other countries: