Helping Consumers Identify Similar-Sounding Generic Prescription Drugs
The AP/Boston Globe on Monday examined how the introduction of two online tools and an initiative led by FDA seek to reduce confusion caused by medications with names that appear or sound the same as the names of other treatments. According to the AP/Globe, confusion about "drug names because they look or sound alike ... is among the most common types of medical mistakes, and it can be deadly."
Last week, U.S. Pharmacopeia launched a Web site that allows patients and physicians to determine whether they have received or prescribed such medications. U.S. Pharmacopeia in a recent study found that about 1,500 medications have names that appear or sound the same as the names of other treatments. In addition, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices and iGuard this fall plans to launch a Web site that will send patients information about such medications. FDA also plans to begin a pilot program that will shift more responsibility to pharmaceutical companies for efforts to prevent confusion caused by medications with names that appear or sound the same as the names of other treatments.
Diane Cousins, a vice president at U.S. Pharmacopeia, said, "There are so many new drugs approved each year, this problem can only get worse," adding, "We've had cases where a health care professional repeats what they think the patient's on, and the patient thinks they must know what they're talking about and agrees."
Michael Cohen, president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, said that pharmacists often advise physicians to include a description of patient diagnoses with their prescriptions to help prevent medication errors. Cohen said, "What they consider most important is knowing why the medication is used," adding, "It would go a long way to interrupt a lot of these mix-ups" (Neergaard, AP/Boston Globe, 9/1).
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