Pharmacy Errors and Injuries Can Result From Similar-Sounding Drug Names

Pill box with pillsThree medications with similar-sounding names have caused some confusion, and almost caused some serious injuries, in recent months, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Two heart medications, Pradaxa and Ranexa, have names that resemble each other and PreNexa, a prenatal vitamin available only by prescription. Medication errors with heart patients or people who are pregnant can have serious short- and long-term consequences, so caution and vigilance are crucial to help patients avoid mix-ups.

Since two of these medications treat heart conditions, mix-ups in pharmacies could be common. Fortunately, that does not currently appear to be the case, but the potential remains for dangerous errors. Any mix-up of these three drugs has the potential for catastrophe, but patients can take a few simple steps to protect themselves. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration generally does not allow drugs used to treat the same or related conditions to have substantially similar or confusing names, but it does happen on occasion. A patient could ask the doctor to include a notation explaining the purpose of the prescription, in order to guide a pharmacist in dispensing the proper medication.

A person filling a prescription also has the ability to discuss the medication with the pharmacist on duty, which is an excellent way to get additional information on the medication and possibly correct errors. If the pharmacist has more information from the patient, the pharmacists can better understand and assist the patient’s needs. A quick conversation with a pharmacist can even reveal, and give an opportunity to correct, errors made in filling the prescription.

A quick review of these three medications can illuminate the risks patients face from drug mix-ups. Pradaxa is an anticoagulant used in patients suffering from atrial fibrillation, a heartbeat irregularity that increases the risk of blood clots. Blood clots can cause stroke and other serious, even life-threatening conditions. Taking the wrong medication leaves the patient at an elevated risk for blood clots. Giving Pradaxa to a patient who does not have atrial fibrillation puts that patient at risk for excessive bleeding and other complications, particularly in people who are pregnant.

Ranexa is an anti-anginal medication that treats chest pain occurring when the heart is not getting sufficient oxygen. Angina sufferers must take the drug on a regular basis for it to have effect, although it cannot cure angina. A person who should be taking Ranexa faces a higher risk of hemorrhaging and bruising if they take Pradexa by mistake.

PreNexa is a vitamin prescribed during pregnancy. It contains high levels of certain omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamins C and D, and other supplements. It has no particular side effects, but confusion with either Ranexa or Pradaxa could cause unpredictable complications in a pregnant person. Likewise, giving PreNexa to a patient with a heart condition would have a dire effect, as it would not treat the heart condition in any way, leaving the patient open to any of the condition’s risks.

The Maryland pharmacy error attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen can assist you if you have been injured by drugs prescribed or administered incorrectly. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 to see if you may recover damages.

More Blog Posts:

Two Families Sue Pharmacy, Alleging Their Children Received Incorrect Dosages, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, March 30, 2012
Family of Woman Who Died After Receiving the Wrong Medication Sues the Pharmacy, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, March 22, 2012
Pharmacy Mistakenly Gives Cancer Medication to Multiple Children, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, March 7, 2012
Photo credit: ‘Pill box with pills’ by Dvortygirl (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Contact Information