Oral Solid Medication Appearance Should Play a Greater Role in Medication Error Prevention

ISMP Medication Safety Alert 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Generic products are widely dispensed in US hospitals and ambulatory pharmacies as a cost-effective substitute for brand-name medications. According to the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, generic medications are dispensed for 69% of all ambulatory prescription medications but account for only 16% of the total costs of all dispensed prescription drugs.[1] While generic medications have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as bioequivalent to their associated brand-name medications, oral generic medications often look substantially different than their brand-name counterparts and other generic versions of the same medications. Thus, consumers can receive different looking tablets or capsules every time they refill their prescription if generic products are dispensed. For example, PROZAC (FLUoxetine) has ten different generic bioequivalent products, but each is different in appearance.[2] Generic manufacturers design their product's appearance, making no effort to ensure it looks like other generics or the brand-name product, primarily to avoid litigation with brand-name manufacturers that claim intellectual rights to the appearance of their products.[3]