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Sound-alike and look-alike drugs pose dangers to patients

On Behalf of | May 20, 2024 | Medication Errors

Pharmacy errors can lead to absolutely terrifying medical emergencies and leave patients with untold harm – and one of the most concerning issues is the danger posed by “sound-alike” and “look-alike” drugs.

Many medications can have similar-sounding names, and a tremendous number of generic drugs look almost identical in size, shape and color. Both can lead to confusion among medical providers and patients. 

What are some examples of the risks?

Patients who receive the wrong drugs can suffer from a range of negative consequences. At best, the wrong medication will be ineffective. At worst, it could lead to life-threatening reactions, injuries or death. 

Some examples of how this can happen include:

  • Hydroxyzine and Hydralazine: Hydroxyzine is an antihistamine used for allergies and anxiety, while Hydralazine is a medication used to treat high blood pressure. Confusing these two can result in inadequate treatment for the patient’s actual condition and potentially dangerous side effects.
  • Celebrex and Celexa: Celebrex is a pain reliever, whereas Celexa is an antidepressant. Mixing these up can lead to either unmanaged pain or untreated depression, with significant impacts on a patient’s well-being.
  • Lamictal and Lamisil: Lamictal is an anticonvulsant used to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder, while Lamisil is an antifungal medication. Dispensing the wrong one can result in a patient’s seizures or mood disorder remaining untreated or an infection continuing to spread.
  • Risperidone and Ropinirole: Risperidone is an antipsychotic used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, while Ropinirole is used for Parkinson’s disease and restless legs syndrome. Their similar packaging can lead to significant treatment errors.
  • Amoxicillin and Amantadine: Amoxicillin is an antibiotic, while Amantadine is an antiviral and antiparkinsonian drug. Mistaking one for the other can result in untreated infections or mismanagement of Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

The issue of sound-alike and look-alike drugs can be compounded in hospitals and pharmacies where verbal communication and visual recognition are critical – and minor misunderstandings can lead to major consequences. If you or your loved one falls victim to a medication error, there are legal options available.



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