Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Easier-to-Understand Drug Labels for Canadians

If you're sick, trying to figure out how you should be taking what medication should be the last of your worries. Unfortunately, not having clear drug labelling can be confusing and add to medications being missed or not being taken correctly.

According to an article on CBC.ca:

"[A]s many as 1 in 9 emergency room visits are related to drug adverse events, and 68% of these visits are preventable. Patients often suffer because of drug labels, packaging or names that they've misunderstood."

This isn't difficult to see. Many drugs sound alike or look alike, and when you're not feeling 100% to begin with, mistakes are bound to happen. While the article doesn't go into much detail about the new labelling, the fact that the issue is being addressed can only be a good thing.

As a nurse, I often had to give discharge instructions to patients, explaining their medications and who they should be taken. But as a parent, relative, and friend of people who take medications, it became plain to me that what may be obvious to me isn't to everyone. For example, take the medication ibuprofen. That's the generic name, the common name. But people in North America also know it as Advil, Motrin, or Nuprin. For prednisone, the generic name, people may know it as deltasone. And that's just the simpler drugs. I've been known to say to someone who is asking for something for a headache, "I have some ibuprofen," only to get a response, "is that the same as Advil?"

Another problem is medications that sound alike. Celexa (an antidepressant) could be easily confused with Celebrex (an anti-inflammatory); Cozaar (for high blood pressure) with colace (a stool softener); Flonase (a nasal spray used for allergy congestion) with Flovent (an inhaled steroid, often used for asthma; and Miralax (a laxative) with Mirapex (a medication for Parkinson's disease). These are just a few examples. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices in the US has compiled a long list of similarly named medications.

What do you think? What could manufacturers do to make drug labels safer?

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