Drug Name Confusion: why you need professional naming
original article by Kathleen Doheny on Medscape Medical News / Drug Name Confusion: More Than 80 New Drug Pairs Added to the List - Medscape - Aug 08, 2023 and edited by pharmanaming.com
Drug names can look or sound like other drug names, which leads to confusion and potentially harmful medication errors. While non proprietary drug names hardly lead to confusion as the WHO approval process is very strict, brand (proprietary) names can lead to confusion.
Examples of the numerous drug names that have been confused because they look and/or sound similar include Celebrex® (celecoxib), Cerebyx® (fosphenytoin), and Celexa® (citalopram). Factors such as poor handwriting and clinical similarity may exacerbate the problem.
This problem can be alleviated through actions by regulatory agencies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, healthcare professionals, and patients. To address the problem, significant changes in the pharmaceutical regulatory process have occurred in the US and Europe.
Zolpidem (Ambien) is a well-known sedative for sleep. Letairis (Ambrisentan) is a vasodilator for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension. Citalopram (Celexa) is an antidepressant; escitalopram (Lexapro) is prescribed for anxiety and depression.
Those are just four of the more than 80 pairs of drug names that the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) recently added to its list of confusing drug names. The aim is to increase awareness about the potential for a serious medication mistake when the wrong drug is given because of drug names that look and sound similar.
This prescription for clonazepam was misinterpreted and dispensed as lorazepam.
Awareness of these drug names, however, is just the first step in preventing medication mistakes. Healthcare providers should take a number of other steps as well, experts said.
ISMP launched its confusing drug names list, previously called look-alike, sound-alike (LASA) drugs, in 2008. The new list is an update of the 2019 version, which focuses on the prevention of medication mistakes. The new entries were chosen on the basis of a number of factors, including ISMP's analysis of recent medication mishap reports that were submitted to it.
The ISMP list now includes about 528 drug pairs. The list is long, he said, partly because each pair is listed twice, so readers can cross reference. For instance, hydralazine and hydroxyzine are listed in one entry in the list, and hydroxyzine and hydralazine are listed in another.
Professional naming agencies like pharmanaming.com incorporate the information on the confusing drug names into their proprietary algorithm and use it when developing brand names for drugs.
Xanax versus Zantac as example of confusing drug brand names