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Do brand names cause confusion and medication errors?

A recent brand-name miscommunication and confusion led to dozens of medication errors, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. The FDA had to issue an alert after there were around 50 reports of two drugs being confused due to their brand names being similar.

Drugs with similar names can be easily confused, and that's why you, as a patient, need to be aware of the drugs your doctor tells you you'll be taking and the drugs you receive at the pharmacy. In this case, the two drugs, Brintellix and Brilinta, were being confused by pharmacists.

What's the harm if two drugs are confused? It can be the difference between patients suffering or passing away or living comfortably. Brintellix is an antidepressant drug, and Brilinta is a blood thinner. In 12 of the reports the FDA received about the drugs being confused, patients had received the wrong medications. Fortunately, none of the patients reported taking the wrong drug.

In those 12 cases, the FDA also reported that half of the errors were caused by the prescription being incorrect and half were dispensing errors. In one case, the pharmacist confused the drugs and refused to issue it to a patient because of the patient's medical history, making the patient wait for the antidepressant medication he may have needed.

While the FDA has not recalled the drugs, it has issued more information about the pills to help patients who could be given the wrong pills. Brintellix, for example, has a TL 5 stamp on it and comes in a tear shape. Brilinta is round and yellow with "T 90" printed on its body.

Source: Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society, "FDA: Brand Name Confusion Led to Dozens of Medication Errors," Michael Mezher, accessed Aug. 25, 2015

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