Magazine article Drug Topics

USP Report Shows Drug Mix-Ups on the Rise, Jeopardizing Patient Safety

Magazine article Drug Topics

USP Report Shows Drug Mix-Ups on the Rise, Jeopardizing Patient Safety

Article excerpt

The number of drugs with similar-sounding names nearly doubled over the past four years, triggering thousands of medication errors that in some instances were fatal, a new report concludes.

More than 1,400 commonly used drugs are involved in errors linked to drug names that look or sound alike, according to the 8th annual national MEDMARX Data Report released recently by the U.S. Pharmacopeia. Based on the 1,470 drugs involved in medication errors, USP compiled a list of 3,170 pairs of names that look or sound alike-a figure that is nearly double the 1,750 pairs identified in USP's 2004 report.

According to Diane Cousins, R.Ph., USP's VP of healthcare quality and information and co-author of the MEDMARX report, "The nation will now be able to access the most comprehensive list of similar names that is based on actual reports of errors, and, for the first time, a list that further delineates the errors' effect on patient outcomes."

USP compiled this list of look-alike, sound-alike drugs from 26,000 incidents of patients receiving the wrong medication between 2003 and 2006. In 1.4% of those cases, a patient was harmed; however, USP researchers believe that number to be "understated at best." Contained in this year's list are the 10 most popular drugs sold in the United States in 2006, including Lipitor (atorvastatin, Pfizer) and Singulair (montelukast sodium, Merck).

USP researchers attributed the rise in drug name mix-ups to a variety of factors, including an increase in the number of medicines approved by the Food & Drug Administration and the gradual aging of the nations population. …

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