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Sound alike drug names can cause serious issues

Some drug names sound alike or are very similar. This makes it possible that patients will receive the wrong medication because of the similarities. That simply isn't acceptable. In 2001, the United States Food and Drug Administration started the Name Differentiation Project that included a list of drug names that should have tall man letters. Tall man letters are bolded uppercase letters that are meant to draw attention to the actual name of the drug to stop mixups.

When it comes to tall man letters, not all of the letters in the drug are capitalized and bolded. For example, buPROPion and busPIRone would be written in that manner to avoid mixing up the two drugs. Many of the drugs that are suggested to have tall man lettering are generics; however, some name brand drugs are also included in the lists.

The results of the tall man lettering system are mixed. Some evidence suggests that the system is ineffective, but that evidence is being laid to the side beside because of limitations. Even those who believe in the tall man lettering system are likely to note that there has to be more done to stop drug mixups, which are a type of medication error.

Patients, doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals all play a part in risk reduction when it comes to medication errors. The patients can't be expected to know everything, so they rely on the professionals. If you are a patient who was harmed because of a medication mixup due to the name similarities with another drug, you might opt to seek compensation. Determining which party from which to seek compensation will be crucial in this case.

Source: Institute for Safe Medication Practices, "FDA and ISMP Lists of Look-Alike Drug Names with Recommended Tall Man Letters," accessed Sep. 23, 2016

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