Double Trouble: Consumer awareness of look-alike names

Consumer awareness of look-alike names is critical for drug safety

From – January 1, 2010

Coming up with a name for a new medicine isn’t as easy as you think. Drug companies look for names that scream ‘take me’ to fix what ails you. The name also needs to stick in your doctor’s mind so it is easy to remember.

With so many medicines already on the market, drug companies and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) go to great lengths to avoid names that look or sound like other medicines. However, problems with medicine names that look and sound alike still occur.

In fact, one of the most common forms of medication errors reported to us involves confusion between two drugs with similar names. The problem can occur when you get a prescription filled. If your doctor writes a prescription for a medicine, it may look similar to the name of another medicine. For example, look at the handwritten prescription below. What is the name of the medicine that is being prescribed? Is it Avandia (rosiglitazone), a medicine to treat diabetes, or Coumadin (warfarin), a blood thinner? It could be either.