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When too-similar drug names lead to mix-ups

Over at Shots today, Eliza Barclay takes a look at the confusing world of drug names and the confusion caused by drugs with similar names:

There are nearly 800 pairs of drugs like Clindesse and Clindets that look or sound alike, according to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, or ISMP, a patient safety group that compiled a list of them. And the ISMP says all of these similarly named drugs are a big problem, because name mix-ups are responsible for about 25 percent of all medication errors.

Barclay explains that the FDA has a name-review process to prevent drug companies from using names that are too close to ones already on the market, but some groups, including Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, are calling for an overhaul of that process:

An incident just this summer showed why some kind of naming review process is necessary. In late July, the FDA announced it had received 226 reports of prescription errors involving Risperdal, a drug for schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders, and Requip, used to treat Parkinson's and restless legs syndrome. The two drugs had similar labels with matching colors, and also are prescribed at the same doses at the same frequency. The companies were asked by the FDA to change the packaging and lettering to help differentiate the drugs.


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