Confusing drug names are alarming!

pharmaceutical namingRecently I was within earshot of Paramedics in the UK repeating the incorrect drug type over the phone to the awaiting Accident and Emergency department. They announced Clobazam  instead of Clonazepam. Thankfully, I was still with the patient and jumped on the error straight away. Calamity can happen so easily and so quickly where you have two people living in the same household with two different kinds of seizures and not exactly all their complex medical needs of each pair up.

“Most medications with look-alike or sound-alike names are not used for the same purpose”

Now as we read them slowly as non-professional medics we can see the different spelling. I challenge you in a week or a year to remember them both. Tricky indeed!

Another report requests that doctors use their brand names on these two drugs as they are far too close to comfort not to cause an unintended negligent mix-up error.

Clobazam brand name is Onfi in USA and Frizium or Tapclob in some other countries

Clonazepam  brand name is Klonopin


Here is an extract from the Institute of Safe Drug Practice -(ISMP)


Table 1:Drug names with Tall Man letters: Confused with..

cloBAZam clonazePAM
clonazePAM cloNIDine — cloZAPine — cloBAZam — LORazepam
cloNIDine clonazePAM – cloZAPine — KlonoPIN*
cloZAPine clonazePAM — cloNIDine
diazePAM dilTIAZem
LORazepam ALPRAZolam — clonazePAM

An interesting recommendation by the ISMP in 2001 was that TALL MAN letters are to be used on different affixes, prefixes or suffixes as depicted in the Name Differentiation Project. Sadly it is not obligatory on packages displayed in Europe. Their list does report generic names and some brand names and are paired in two’s or three’s to highlight similarities.

NB: “Any product label changes by manufacturers require FDA (The US Food and Drug Administration) approval.”                                                

Marketing Departments please be on your guard. Though the list above illustrates interesting roots and sources for your soon to be marketed new drug to evolve a stylish brand, it is prudent to call someone like Brighter Naming. They have a dedicated international linguistic naming consultants to steer your project out of hot waters and run numerous, experienced tests to avoid confusions with competing or conflicting drugs.

Naming Alphabet soup 101

(C) Rosie Reay

Posted in Biotech Naming, Branding, International Naming, Strange Names, Trademarks