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Similar drug names caused years of confusion

On Behalf of | Dec 1, 2020 | Medical Malpractice

Drug names can be similar. Without appropriate precautions, this can lead to pharmacy errors that prevent treatment or cause patient harm. There are several ways to prevent confusion and medical malpractice lawsuits from these type of medication errors.


Generic drugs have alphabetically similar names which can cause confusion, especially when drugs are stored next to each other on pharmacy shelfs. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices, for example, has received reports over many decades of mix ups between the blood pressure medication hydralazine with hydroxyzine which is an antihistamine/anxiolytic.

Other causes of confusion include drop down menus and picklists with adjacent presentation of drugs. Similar dosage strengths of 10-, 25-, 50- and 100-mg tablet formulation also play a role. Lookalike packaging further increases the risk of these errors.

Preventive measures

Physicians should include the medication’s purpose with the prescription because most drug name pairs that look and sound the same have different indications. Computer system and drug information vendors should work with physicians to design and apply the use of effective indication-based prescribing and prescription screening.

Pharmacies need to use barcode scanning when these medications are received, stored, and dispensed to help avoid mistakes. Purchasing one of the similar medications from a different manufacturer is another option.

Circling the unique characteristics of each medication with a pen to distinguish them may be effective. Look-alike drugs, for example medications with names like hydralazine and hydroxyzine, should be distinguished by using tall man letters and other methods in prescribing and in pharmacy computer systems.

Pharmacy management needs to have pharmacists discuss new therapies with patients and assure that the medication is appropriate for treating the patient’s condition. Pharmacists must also verify that patients understand the new treatment.

Manufacturers may implement measure to reduce medication similarity errors. They can use different designs to assure tall man letters are clearly visible. One pharmaceutical company, for example, emphasized tall man letters with hydroxyzine by using black font and a yellow background.

An attorney can help obtain malpractice victims obtain information and understand their options. They can help them pursue their compensation rights by filing a timely lawsuit when it is supported by the evidence.



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