Decreasing Errors Involving Look-Alike Sound-Alike Drugs

While there are many causes of Maryland pharmacy errors, one of the most frequently reported errors involves a patient receiving the wrong medication from their pharmacist. In many cases, the pharmacist provides a patient with a drug that has a name similar to the drug which they were prescribed.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) has coined the term look-alike sound-alike (LASA) drug to describe a medication that is either spelled or pronounced similar to other medications. It is estimated that up to 35% of all medication errors involve LASA medications. The IMSP has also published a list of the most common LASA drugs.

For example, common LASA drugs include:

  • hydromorphone and morphine
  • vinblastine and vincristine
  • tramadol and trazodone

In the case of most LASA drugs, the consequences of a mistake can result in serious injury or even death. For example, hydromorphone is between four to eight times more potent than morphine, and fatal errors have occurred when pharmacists have given a patient hydromorphone believing it to be a generic equivalent of morphine.

Given the dangers LASA drugs present, the pharmacy industry is constantly coming up with ways to decrease errors involving these medications. According to a recent industry study, researchers claim that pharmacists should be more careful when issuing prescriptions with the instruction to “use as directed.”

The study is premised on the idea that pharmacists who commit errors involving LASA drugs are more likely to catch their mistake if they have to take a closer look at the medication. The researchers noted that many physicians who expect to make changes to prescription dosing instructions will simply instruct the patient to “use as directed.”

Normally, a pharmacist will double-check not just the patient’s name and drug name, but also the dosing instructions. If something seems wrong with the dosing instructions, a pharmacist would presumably look into the issue and may discover that an error has been made. However, by including “use as directed” on a prescription label, it is one less check that will be performed by the pharmacist.

Researchers claim that the drug manufacturers as well as the Food and Drug Administration should consider the likelihood a drug will be prescribed “as directed” when creating and approving a drug’s packaging. Similarly, pharmacists should ensure to counsel patients with “use as directed” instructions, giving them an extra opportunity to catch an error.

Have You Been the Victim of a Pharmacy Error?

If you or a loved one has recently been the victim of a Maryland pharmacy error, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Pharmacy error claims can be very complex, and may require medical or scientific experts to establish and prove a claim. The dedicated Maryland pharmacy error lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC are experienced in these cases, and have a broad network of experts on-call to assist in establishing our clients’ cases. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Steps That All Pharmacists Can Take to Reduce Dispensing Errors, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, July 16, 2018.

Court Dismisses Claim Against Drug Manufacturer for Failure to Provide Medication Guide with Prescription, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, August 7, 2018.

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