Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Pharmacists and physicians may need tobrush up on their memory skills when itcomes to identifying pills on sight. A standardizeddrug-coding system, however, couldsolve this dangerous situation.

In a study reported in the May 1, 2006,issue of the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 1000 pharmacists andphysicians at 2 urban teaching hospitals wereasked to identify 3 commonly used tabletmedications: Zocor (a brand name statin),lorazepam (a generic sedative), and naproxen(a nonprescription generic pain reliever). Theparticipants were allowed to consult theresources "usually available to them."

Overall, medications were correctly identified63% of the time. Zocor was correctlyidentified 78% of the time, lorazepam 64% ofthe time, and naproxen 48% of the time. Only24 pharmacists (48%) and 18 physicians (36%)correctly identified all 3 drugs, whereas 5pharmacists (10%) and 10 physicians (20%)batted zero.

The study also found that confusion anderror resulting in not being able to correctlyidentify medications is common.

Currently, there is no standardization ofidentification, because manufacturers usetheir own codes and symbols. The researchersalso noted that the pharmaceuticalindustry sees reason to change thispractice.