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Brintellix Or Brilinta? Prediction Model Aims To Prevent Drug Mix-Ups Caused By Similar Names

In this Friday, July 8, 2016, photo, pharmacist technician Irene Arrenquin fills a prescription for the anti-diarrhea drug diphenoxylate hydrochloride and atropine sulfate at Pucci's Pharmacy, in Sacramento, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)
In this Friday, July 8, 2016, photo, pharmacist technician Irene Arrenquin fills a prescription for the anti-diarrhea drug diphenoxylate hydrochloride and atropine sulfate at Pucci's Pharmacy, in Sacramento, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

Brintellix, an antidepressant, sounded so much like Brilinta, a blood thinner, that it led to dozens of medical errors — until Brintellix was changed to Trintellix in 2016.

That's the kind of mistake that a new prediction model developed by researchers at the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute aims to prevent.

Research analyst Qoua Her presented it at a major pharmacy conference in Boston Monday.

Among the team's findings: Different drugs from the same maker often look dangerously alike — similar text, logo and packaging.

"So say if you're in a pharmacy, you're going to grab a bottle off the shelf to fill a patient's prescriptions, you could grab the wrong bottle because it looks pretty much the same," Her says.

His team aims to create a screening tool that could help catch the rare confusing names that may get past the Food and Drug Administration's name approval process.

Related:

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.

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