Confusing brand names - algorithms to assess the confusability to dispensers and risk to patients


  • Padmanabh Rataboli Department of Pharmacology, Goa Medical College, Goa, India
  • Akshay Khandeparkar Regional Medical Advisor, Zydus Cadila Healthcare Ltd., Delhi, India
  • Suvidha Khandolkar Department of Pharmacology, Goa Medical College, Goa, India
  • Lokesh Chawla Department of Orthopaedics, Goa Medical College, Goa, India



Background: Brand name prescribing has been as integral part of medical practice. Confusing brand names have become a nightmare of medical profession and many are strikingly identical, similar looking (orthographic), or similar sounding (phonological). Such similarities have led to medical errors due to wrong drug being prescribed or dispensed. We have made an attempt to form algorithms to assess the confusability to dispensers or doctors and, to determine the risk to the patients by considering various parameters in the brand names.  

Methods: Two separate algorithms are prepared with positive and negative markings to assess the confusability and the risk. The scoring system appropriately suggests the confusability of the brand names, as well as the risk posed to the patients if dispensed wrongly. Considering the confusion and the potential risk to the consumers, it is essential that the concerned authorities adopt this algorithm to determine the confusability vis-a-vis safety before they accept a new brand name. Similar brand names should be analysed and the score determined to approve or refuse the new name for the brands.

Results: Analysing numerous examples of confusing brand names, it is proposed that an overall combined score of more than 22 (confusability plus risk together) suggests that the two names are highly confusing and pose a high risk to the patients if wrongly prescribed or dispensed. An overall score of 8 or less suggests that the drug names together are neither confusing nor risky. A combined score in between suggests that the drugs analysed are confusing but may or may not pose any risk to the patient.

Conclusions: In conclusion, look-alike and sound-alike brand names of various drugs are here to stay. As consumer, one should find out what drug you are taking and what it’s for, and whether the right brand has been dispensed. As a doctor you should write clearly and be thoroughly familiar with the similar brands before you prescribe to prevent any “written” error. As pharmacist, one should not hesitate to phone the physician to verify the brand and its contents if the name is “confusing” with another brand. 

Keywords: Confusing brand names, Algorithms, Confusability, Risk


Metrics Loading ...


UBM Medica. Indian drug review. In: UBM Medica, eds. A Book. India: UBM Medica India Pvt Ltd; March-April 2013;XVII(2).

Rataboli PV, Garg A. Confusing brand names: nightmare of medical profession. J Postgrad Med. 2005;51(1):13-6.

Kolatch E, Toye J, Dorr B. Look Alike/sound alike algorithms for assessing drug name similarities, 2004. Available at Accessed 27 March 2007.

CiteSeerX. Finding approximate matches in large lexicons, 2015. Available at Accessed 5 March 2015.

Anwikar SR. Managing risks in drug therapy. Int J Risk Saf Med. 2001;14(3-4):63-9.






Original Research Articles