Web Tools Aim to Reduce Drug Name Mix-Ups-September 2008


Efforts are under way to bring patients resources to help avoid medication errors.

Organizations are launching new patient-focused online tools to help combat medication errors with sound-alike names.

Studies indicate that at least 1.5 million Americans are harmed each year from a variety of medication errors, and name mix-ups are blamed for 25% of them. The United States Pharmacopeia (USP), one of the organizations launching a Web site, conducted a study that found about 1500 medications have names that appear or sound the same as the names of other treatments.

The USP has launched the Drug Finder Web site to help individuals distinguish between drugs that look and sound alike. “There are so many new drugs approved each year, the problem can only get worse,” said Diane Cousins, a vice president at USP, in the September 1, 2008, Boston Globe. “We’ve had cases where a health care professional repeats what they think the patient’s on, and the patient thinks they must know what they’re talking about and agrees.”

In the fall, the nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices and the online health service iGuard are partnering to launch the Consumer Med Safety Web site designed to improve health outcomes related to medication use, medication adherence, and health literacy. Features include 4 major knowledge sections, a drug interaction checker, interactive tools, and general health and disease information.

In addition, the FDA plans to begin a pilot program that will shift more responsibility to pharmaceutical companies to guard against name confusion. The goal is to spell out how to better test for potential mix-ups before companies seek approval to sell their products.

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