Man Sues Pharmacy for Confusing Wart Remover for Eye Medication, FDA Deals with Similar Drug Names

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by | Feb 28, 2012 | Pharmacy Errors

After undergoing a fairly simple eye surgery, Queens, New York resident Smith Maceus went to a Walgreens pharmacy to fill a prescription for eye drops. His doctor had prescribed the eye drops to aid in his recovery. An error at the pharmacy, as alleged in a lawsuit filed by Maceus against Walgreens, led to him receiving a wart remover instead of the eye drops. The pharmacist allegedly gave him Durasal instead of the FDA-approved eye medication Durezol. Maceus’ lawsuit claims that he suffered “grievous personal injury” as a result of the error. He is demanding $1 million in damages.

The two drugs have similar names but could not be more different. Durezol is a highly dilute eye drop, consisting of 0.05% solution of ophthalmic chemicals. Durasal is a comparatively concentrated acid solution, containing 26% salicylic acid. It would have an unpleasant effect if placed in the eyes.

Maceus’ injury was the result of a conflict between drug names that had caused enough problems to get the attention of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA issued an alert to phamracists and other medical professionals in December 2011 of the potential for confusion between Durezol and Durasal. It specifically called on pharmacists to be “vigilant” when filling Durezol prescriptions.

According to the FDA, Durasal’s manufacturer did not submit it to the process of FDA review and approval. It went on the market soon after the FDA gave final approval to Durezol. Therefore, the FDA could not do its usual check for conflicting trade names when it reviewed the application for Durezol, as it was not aware of Durasal at the time. Durasal’s manufacturer reportedly has not responded to FDA requests to take Durasal off the market while the FDA reviews the risk to patients.

An article at the Consumerist shows the packaging of the two drugs. The boxes bear a vague resemblance to one another, but the real similarity is in the names. Durasal’s box does bear a helpful warning, stating that the medication is “NOT FOR USE IN EYES” with the all-caps in the original. It is important to note that pharmacies sometimes repackage drugs, either omitting the box or even putting the medications into the pharmacy’s own containers. There is therefore no way of knowing how many patients actually see this warning.

Unfortunately, accidents involving eye medications are not at all rare. The Consumerist reported on a woman in Arizona who suffered serious injury in 2010 due to a mixup of her eye drops for something with similar packaging. She was recovering from cataract surgery, and instead of her eye drops, she picked up a tube of superglue. Paramedics managed to open her eyelids and clear the adhesive out of her eyes. The accident resulted from the similarity of the packaging, possibly combined with the woman’s post-surgical impaired vision. This incident underscores the importance of carefully confirming the packaging on medications that treat sensitive areas like the eyes.

People who have suffered injury due to a medication error in a pharmacy or hospital may be entitled to compensation for their damages. For a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Kansas City pharmacy error lawyer, contact Doug Horn at Horn Law today through our website or at (816) 795-7500.