Similar Drug Names Prompt New Concerns About Dispensing Errors

Pharmacy Times
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The FDA and pharmaceutical industryleaders are joining in an effort toalert pharmacists to a troublesome riskof dispensing errors involving 2 similarlynamed drugs: Eli Lilly's antipsychoticdrug, Zyprexa, and Pfizer's antihistamine,Zyrtec.

The FDA has posted a warning of theproblem on the agency's Web site,while Lilly announced plans for an"awareness direct mail campaign topharmacists,"urging that they take precautionsto avoid dispensing errors thatcould result in "unnecessary adverseevents or potential relapse in (Zyprexa)patients suffering from schizophreniaor bipolar disorder."

In a letter sent to pharmacists andother health care professionalsthroughout the country, Lilly cited anumber of instances "where Zyprexawas incorrectly dispensed for Zyrtecand vice versa."

Although the similarity of names ispartially responsible for the confusion,Lilly said other factors are at play.

Both drugs are available in the samedose strengths (5-mg and 10-mg tablets)with the same dose interval (once daily),and the 2 products are "generallystored near each other on pharmacyshelves,"the manufacturer said.

For its part, Lilly will be makinglabel changes for its drug to reduce therisk of dispensing errors. The companyalso urged pharmacists to follow recommendationsfrom the Institute forSafe Medication Practices to store drugswith reports of dispensing errors in differentlocations, and to print both thebrand and generic names of theseproducts on Rx labels.

Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.

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