Mumbai: Health Experts Call For Action Against Look-Alike, Sound-Alike (LASA) Drugs

Mumbai: Health Experts Call For Action Against Look-Alike, Sound-Alike (LASA) Drugs

The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) needs to address this issues on priority basis to prevent potential mishaps and ensure patient safety.

Swapnil MishraUpdated: Thursday, February 15, 2024, 10:35 PM IST
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Drugs with similar or identical names have long posed serious concerns in the healthcare sector. But now health experts are highlighting another pressing issue: Look-alike, sound-alike (LASA) drugs, which, despite having distinct purposes, share names that are phonetically and visually similar, posing significant risks to patient safety.

DCGI should address issue on priority

According to experts, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) needs to address this issues on priority basis to prevent potential mishaps and ensure patient safety. The DCGI should come up with new guidelines for all pharmaceuticals companies, they said.

"It is important for pharmaceutical companies to establish a separate body that can name new molecules. They will then have the data and the right resources to cross-check and verify," said an official.

Dr Ishwar Gilada, a prominent infectious disease expert and secretary general of the Peoples Health Organisation-India (PHO), said there is a need for concrete guidelines for drug names to avoid confusion. Drug manufacturers are supposed to suggest three names for any new formulation and the DCGI selects one that is licensed. For instance, while Azidothymidine, commonly named as AZT, is used to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, Azathioprine, also known as AZT, is used as immunosuppressive medication.

Collective efforts to mitigate risks and ensure patient safety

"DCGI need to play their role to avoid similar and confusing names as doctors, patients and chemists come in picture later. However, it requires a collective effort from all stakeholders to mitigate risks and ensure patient safety," Dr Gilada said.

"For example two different drugs used to treat entirely different conditions have identical brand names — ‘Linamac’. While the drug bearing the name ‘Linamac 5’ is used to treat multiple myeloma, which is a type of cancer, the other drug bearing the name ‘Linamac’ is used to treat diabetes."

Dr Gilada outlined several measures to address this issue. He emphasised the importance of standardised prescription practices, whereby doctors clearly indicate the diagnosis along with the prescribed medication and its active ingredient.

Need to strict implement rules for chemist shops

"There is a need to strict implement rules and regulations set for chemist shops which are owned by professional pharmacists, and their staff should undergo training. Furthermore, cross-checking prescriptions with doctors before dispensing medication is crucial to prevent errors," he said.

Most hospitals maintain a list of LASA drugs to avoid confusion in treatment. Other such drugs are metformin (diabetes), metoprolol (heart) and metronidazole (amoebiasis). They are called Met, Meto and Metro; Cycloserine for TB, Cyclosporine as antibiotic. Both are called Cyclo.

"LASA drugs such as metformin for diabetes, metoprolol for heart conditions, and metronidazole for amoebiasis, often referred to as Met, Meto, and Metro, respectively, demand heightened attention due to their potential for confusion," Dr Gilada said.

The prevalence of look-alike, sound-alike drugs pose a significant challenge to patient safety in India. Addressing the problem requires a multifaceted approach involving regulatory measures, improved healthcare practices, education, and collaboration across the healthcare sector.

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