When patients are prescribed medications, they may not realize that there are hundreds and hundreds of drug names a doctor can select and a pharmacist can fill. While each drug name should be different for branding reasons, medication names should also be unique to avoid a doctor or pharmacist from giving a patient the wrong medication. Although there is a drug name approval and rejection process in place by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some drug names mistakenly get approved that sound too close to an already existent drug on the market.
When drug names are too close, it can be confusing for everyone involved. Thus, medication errors can occur at every level, including:
- Doctors can prescribe the wrong drug that is similar in name
- Doctors can prescribe the correct drug, but pharmacists may fill a sound-alike drug instead
Unfortunately, many medications have similar sounding names, such as Allegra and Viagra, Benadryl and Benazepril, Flonase and Flovent, Neulasta and Lunesta, and Doxil and Paxil. These examples of confusing medication names are on a list—eight pages long—compiled by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. The list indicates the medications that pharmacists and doctors have reported as being confused for other medications due to look-alike and sound-alike drug names.
Because patients can really suffer harm if they receive the wrong medication, drug name confusion should not be taken lightly. For example, a cancer patient can suffer serious consequences if he or she was taking Lunesta instead of Neulasta. When drug names are so similar, it can lead to adverse drug events in this nation that can cause life-threatening illnesses and even death.
Examples of how drug name mix-ups can occur:
- Penicillamine for Penicillin – A nine-year-old patient was supposed to receive a prescription for penicillin to treat his strep, but the nurse practitioner sent an electronic prescription for penicillamine (a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis).
- PARoxetine for FLUoxetine – An eight-year-old patient had been receiving PARoxetine 10 mg instead of FLUoxetine 10 mg for three months until the mistake was caught. This mix-up occurred because the doctor left a voice mail for the pharmacy, and the person listening to the voice mail heard PARoxetine instead of FLUoxetine.
While no serious harm occurred in the above two cases, other patients who receive wrong medications aren’t so fortunate. If you or your children receive the wrong drugs due to doctor or pharmacy errors, please contact Kennedy Hodges to speak with an knowledgeable Texas pharmacy error attorney at 888-526-7616 for a free consultation, and also request a free copy of our report, How to Make Pharmacies Pay for Injuries Caused by Medication Errors.