Cognitive tests predict real-world medication errors

Similarities in how drug names are spelled and/or pronounced are the root cause of many medication errors. This threat to patient safety persists even though product names are vetted before regulatory approval in order to gauge their potential for confusion.

Similarities in how drug names are spelled and/or pronounced are the root cause of many medication errors. This threat to patient safety persists even though product names are vetted before regulatory approval in order to gauge their potential for confusion. Researchers recruited 80 pharmacists, nurses, doctors, technicians, and lay people from two separate pharmacy chains to explore whether errors in laboratory testing could predict actual mix-ups in real life. Participants submitted to perception- and memory-based testing involving closely matched drug pairs, such as hyroxyzine and hydralazine. The experiment revealed that drug name confusion error rates in the laboratory did, in fact, predict real-world mistakes. The researchers recommend that regulators and drug sponsors consider applying simple tests of memory, audio perception, and visual perception as a way to ferret out possible drug names that may cause confusion. Subsequently, fewer confusing look-alike and sound-alike names will reach the market; and potentially dangerous medication errors should decline.