Mix-up in Prescription Medication Can Result in Injury, Death

By Amanda Bolden-Weaver,
Mix-ups in drug names are the biggest factor.

There are more than 5 million cases a year of people receiving the wrong medication, according to MSNBC.com. Some of these cases result in injury, and even death; and the mistakes are often as simple as name mix-ups.

In a 2008 report by Pharmacopeia — which is responsible for setting drug standards — some 1,500 drugs have similar names to other drugs, such as the allergy medicine Zyrtec and the antipsychotic Zyprexa. After the FDA made plans for a “Safe Use Initiative” last November, drug-maker Takeda changed the name of its drug Kapidex, which is for heartburn, after several reports of a mix up with Casodex — a prostate cancer medication.

The percentage of mixed-up prescriptions filled in 2009 came out to 1.7 percent. That seems like a small amount, but it accounts for 66 million of the 3.9 billion prescriptions. The Pharmacopeia report also revealed that of the 66 million, 325,000 people were at risk of injury or death due to the mistake.
Though similar sounding names have been the biggest cause for errors, bad hand writing and inexperienced staff are other factors in the medical mix up.

Attempts to lower the amount of mix ups have already taken place, such as placing the drugs in different places if they sound the same and using capital letters in the names to differentiate the drugs. The most effective remedy seems to be issuing a bar-code to each drug when they are manufactured and filled as a prescription.



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