Look-alike and sound-alike medicines: risks and 'solutions'

Int J Clin Pharm. 2012 Feb;34(1):4-8. doi: 10.1007/s11096-011-9595-x.


'Look-alike, sound-alike' medicines are associated with dispensing errors. This commentary aims to fuel discussion surrounding how drug name nomenclature and similar packaging between medicines can lead to selection errors, the need for enhanced approval systems for medicine names and packaging, and best practice 'solutions'. The literature reveals a number of environmental risks and human factors that can contribute to such errors. To contextualise these risks, we interviewed 13 quality and safety experts, psycholinguists, and hospital and community pharmacy practitioners in Australia, and commissioned a medical software industry expert to conceptualise electronic initiatives. Environmental factors contributing to such errors, identified through both the literature and interviews, include distractions during dispensing; workflow controls should minimise the 'human factors' element of errors. Technological solutions with some support, and yet recognised limitations, include font variations, automated alerts, barcode scanning and real-time reporting programmed into dispensing software; further development of these initiatives is recommended.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Community Pharmacy Services / organization & administration
  • Data Collection
  • Drug Packaging*
  • Drug Therapy, Computer-Assisted
  • Humans
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control*
  • Pharmacy Service, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Software
  • Technology, Pharmaceutical / methods*
  • Terminology as Topic