The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned Thursday that some doctors and pharmacists are getting the drugs Brintellix and Brilinta mixed up.
The agency said it has received 50 reports of medication errors, including at least 12 cases where doctors prescribed the wrong drug or pharmacies dispensed the wrong one. Brintellix is an antidepressant drug, and Brilinta is a blood-thinning medication used to prevent death after a heart attack or severe chest pain or to prevent a second heart attack, according to CBS News.
Error reports have been coming into the FDA since September 2013, when Brintellix was approved. Both tablets have the letter T stamped on them, and in some cases, both are yellow, CBS News reports.
FDA officials are urging doctors to write out the generic name of the drug and the condition for which it is being prescribed. Brintellix is also known as vortioxetine and is sold in the U.S. by Japanese drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceuticals. Brilinta’s generic name is ticagrelor. The medication was approved in 2011 and is made by AstraZeneca PLC, according to CBS News.
Drug companies propose names for medications before they are approved. The FDA’s Division of Medication Error Prevention and Analysis (DMEPA) compare the name to drugs already on the market and those still under FDA review. The office compiles a list of names that could be confused with the name of the proposed drug, taking into consideration the spelling of the new drug, the way it will be pronounced by people with different accents, and how the name of the drug will look handwritten. A variety of handwriting samples are used to see if the name of the new drug might look similar to another drug in certain peoples’ handwriting, CBS News reports.
Names that can mislead consumers by making a drug sound uniquely effective are rejected by the FDA, as are names that sound “overly fanciful.” The agency says it reviews 400 proposed drug names each year and discards about a third of them, according to CBS News.
Both Brintellix and Brilinta come in tablet form, but each drug contains unique characteristics. Brintellix is a tear-shaped tablet stamped with the letters “TL.” A number is stamped on each tablet indicating the dosage (for example, “5” for the 5 mg tablet). The color varies depending on the dose and may be pink, yellow, orange or red. Brilinta, on the other hand, is a round, yellow tablet with “T 90” stamped on it, CBS News reports.
On its website, the FDA posted the following tips for patients to help ensure they don’t confuse Brintellix and Brilinta:
– Check your prescription to ensure that the correct medication was dispensed.
– Look at the name on the bottle.
– Inspect the appearance of the tablet.
– Know why you are taking it.
– Ask questions to your health care professional if the name on the prescription, description of the medicine’s use, or appearance of the medication is different from what you expect.