India’s problem — different drugs, identical brand names – Drug Name Confusion Threatens Patient Safety in India | 25 January 2024 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the serious issue of identical and similar trade names for drugs in India, leading to potential medication errors and endangering patient safety.


  • GS2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources


  • The use of identical trade names for drugs with different active ingredients poses a significant risk to patient safety. This practice has been a longstanding issue in the pharmaceutical industry, leading to potential confusion and medication errors, as exemplified by the case of 'Linamac' being used for drugs treating entirely different conditions


  • Main Issues:
    • Identical Names: Different drugs with entirely different active ingredients and uses share the same brand name, like “Linamac” for both cancer and diabetes medication.
    • Similar Names: Phonetically or visually similar names further aggravate the problem, like “Medzole” for four different drugs and “Medpol/Medrol/Metrozole” for entirely unrelated medications.
    • Repurposed Names: Companies exploit successful brand names, like “i-Pill” for both emergency and daily contraceptive pills, leading to potential misuse.
    • Widespread Illiteracy and Unregulated Pharmacies: Lack of English proficiency and poorly regulated pharmacies without trained personnel exacerbate the risk of dispensing errors.
  • Consequences:
    • Prescription Errors: Confusion between drugs can lead to incorrect medication, with potentially fatal outcomes.
    • Unwanted Pregnancies: Misuse of contraceptives due to similar names can cause unintended pregnancies.
    • Lack of Data and Reform: India's lack of data on prescription errors hinders the recognition and rectification of the problem.
    • Regulatory Apathy: Despite recommendations from the Supreme Court and Parliament, the Ministry of Health has failed to implement measures to prevent confusingly similar drug names.
  • Possible Solutions:
    • Centralized Database: Create a comprehensive database of all pharmaceutical brand names in India.
    • Dedicated Regulatory Body: Establish a specialized division within the drug regulatory authority to scrutinize drug names for potential confusion.
    • International Best Practices: Implement mechanisms similar to those in the US and Europe for thorough drug name evaluation.
    • Pharmacist Training: Ensure all pharmacies are staffed by trained and licensed professionals.

Way Forward:

  • India's current system of duplicate and similar drug names is a ticking time bomb. Comprehensive reforms, including data collection and robust name vetting, are crucial to prevent potentially fatal medication errors and protect the health of millions.

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