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“LASA” Problems: Dangerous Prescription Misfills Caused by Confusingly Similar Drugs

Posted on - Wednesday, March 9, 2016 under Dangerous Drugs & Products

When it comes to powerful prescription drugs, the difference between a couple of letters in a medication’s name can mean the difference between getting better and getting worse.

Confusion between drugs with similar sounding or looking names is a major cause of dangerous prescription misfills. It is estimated that these “Look-Alike, Sound-Alike” (“LASA”) medication errors occur at a rate of at least 1 per 1000 prescriptions in hospital settings, according to a 2006 study.

The misfill risk from LASA drugs comes in many forms, including:

  • handwritten prescriptions with look-alike drug names
  • similar-sounding drugs appearing next to each other on computer ordering screens
  • incorrect selection from a computer drop-down menu
  • confusion during the medication reconciliation process
  • misheard oral orders, and
  • incorrect product selection from the shelf or automated dispensing cabinet.

LASA errors can occur between two brand names, between two generic names, or between a brand and a generic name. As more and more drugs come on the market every year, more and more medication names become part of a pharmacist’s daily life as well, leading to greater chances of misfills and other errors.

Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as well as pharmaceutical companies are supposed to take the potential for LASA errors into account when developing and approving new drug names. However, as the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research notes, “it is becoming increasingly difficult to find names with no possibility of creating LASA medication names or products.”

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices publishes a “List of Confused Drug Names” and has made recommendations for avoiding LASA errors and misfills. These suggestions include:

  • using both the brand and generic names on prescriptions and patient labels
  • including the indication or purpose of the medication on prescriptions and medication orders
  • configuring computer selection screens to prevent look-alike names from appearing consecutively
  • educating patients as to the name and purpose of each medication they’re prescribed and encouraging the patient to question anything that appears incorrect.

At Parian Law Firm in metro Atlanta, Georgia, we represent injury victims exclusively, including individuals and families who have suffered because a pharmacy has misfiled a prescription. If you have questions or concerns regarding misfiled prescriptions or other pharmaceutical errors, please contact us at (770) 727-5550 or chat live online with a member of our staff today.