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Similar-sounding drug names causing dangerous confusion, says FDA

At least 50 medication mix-ups recently prompted the Food and Drug Administration to issue a warning to the public. Specifically, the warning pertains to two drugs with very similar-sounding names: Brintellix and Brilinta.

Brintellix is used to treat depression, and Brilinta is an anti-clotting medication. The FDA says that doctors and pharmacists have been getting the names confused, potentially causing harm to patients, though no injuries have yet been reported. More than 1.5 million prescriptions for Brintellix and Brilinta have been written, so the FDA’s warning is relevant for many Americans.

This most recent warning isn’t the first the FDA has issued about medication names that sound too similar. Volmax has been confused with Flomax; Risperdal has been mixed up with Requip; and generic versions risperidone and repinirole have been erroneously doled out to patients.

If you consider the notoriously illegible handwriting of many doctors, then it’s easy to see how handwritten prescriptions for these drugs could result in potentially dangerous medication errors. In fact, handwritten prescriptions have long been associated with medication errors.

The FDA regulates the naming of drugs in order to prevent confusion. The agency checks “the spelling of the name, pronunciation of the name when spoken, and appearance of the name when scripted throughout the medication use system.” Obviously, though, mistakes still occur.

The medical malpractice lawyers of Harris, Powers & Cunningham represent Arizona patients who have been injured as a result of prescription drug errors. To learn more about this complex area of law, please see our medication error overview.

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