Health Canada Reports Pradaxa/Plavix Mix-Ups

Two different prescription drugs with similar names—Pradax (Pradaxa in the United States) and Plavix—are involved in some <"">drug mix-ups in Canada that, in at least one case, have included harm to a patient, according to a Health Canada report.

The drug makers, Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd., Sanofi-Aventis Canada Inc., and Health Canada issued a warning Tuesday advising patients of the risk of medication errors connected to Pradax (dabigatran) and Plavix (clopidogrel), said CBC News.

As we’ve explained, in the U.S., the blood thinner, Pradaxa, is approved to prevent strokes in people with atrial fibrillation and is one of a number of new anti-blood-clotting pills expected to replace warfarin. Unlike warfarin, Pradaxa is not associated with dangerous interactions with some foods; however, excessive bleeding from warfarin can be treated with vitamin K, while there is no antidote for this side effect when it occurs in Pradaxa patients. CBC News pointed out that Pradax is often used after hip or knee replacement surgery to prevent blood clots.

Plavix is a prescription blood thinner given to people with a history of heart-related problems, such as heart attack and stroke, to prevent future events and, explained CBC News, helps keep blood platelets from sticking together and forming heart attack- and stroke-causing clots.

As we’ve written, Plavix could cause a life-threatening blood disorder in some users known as thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, or TTP. TTP is marked by the formation of blood clots in small blood vessels throughout the body. Untreated, TTP blood clots block the blood vessels and limit blood flow to the brain, kidneys, or heart. TTP was not observed in clinical trials of more than 17,500 Plavix-treated patients prior to its approval in 1997.

Since January, five Canadian cases involving Pradax and Plavix drug name mix-ups have been reported. One patient suffered a non-serious bleed following a medical procedure, according to CBC News. Also, two reports of concerns raised by health care professionals have been received over possible confusion between the drugs and their similar-sounding names.

Health Canada explained that taking Pradax instead of Plavix or taking Plavix instead of Pradax, could result in injury, such as increased risks for bleeding, stroke, heart attack, or blood clots.

Health Canada is encouraging patients to be aware of the names and uses of all the medications they take and to carry a list of their current medications, providing it to physicians, dentists, or pharmacists if admitted to a hospital, wrote CBC News.

To prevent medication errors, patients should be certain they can read the name of their medications on written prescriptions; if not, have the doctor print the drug’s name on the prescription, said CBC News. Patients should also be clear as to why they are receiving their mediations and the properties and appearance of the medications they take. Customers are also encouraged to read their medications’ patient leaflets and refer questions to their doctor or druggist, added CBC News.

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