Popular Drugs Are Changing Names Due to Mix-ups

Two drug companies, Monsanto Co. and Pfizer Inc. have launched a campaign to make sure doctors and pharmacists don't mix up Celebrex with similar-sounding drugs. Celebrex, a popular selling new arthritis pill, sounds a lot like Celexa, a drug used for depression, and Cerebyx, a drug used for seizure. To make matters worse, it is not just patients who are confused. To date federal regulators have received 95 reports of errors by doctors and pharmacists in dispensing Celebrex.

"This is an accident waiting to happen," said Hedy Cohen, vice president of nursing at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a Huntington Valley, Pa., nonprofit group that tracks medication errors. "It is a matter of time until a person that is already sick gets the wrong drug and the chance for a serious injury can occur."

As if drug mix-ups were bad enough this scary problem needs to be viewed in the light that even properly prescribed medications carry their own inherent risk. In The Journal of American Medical Association., Bruce Pomeranz, M.D., Ph.D., reviewed 39 different studies of adverse drug reactions in hospitals, and came up with some alarming conclusions. According to Dr. Pomeranz, he estimates that 2,216,000 hospital patients experienced serious adverse drug reactions (side effects) and 106,000 died from these reactions in 1994 alone. This astounding number accounted for 4.6% of all recorded deaths in the U.S. in that year. This makes drug reaction deaths from properly prescribed medications the fourth leading cause of death in the country.