Identity Crisis Everywhere!

I recently got a new phone with a new phone number. Shortly after I activated my cell phone, a new text emerged right away from a bank, indicating that I contact them immediately for an urgent matter. Within the first week, I have received three phone messages from collection agencies, asking for either Steven or Douglas to call back pertaining to file ID#99999.

This isn’t a surprise to me. When we moved to a new house almost 6 years ago, it happened to our new land line – that the previous owner of the phone must have accumulated some debts. We were bombarded with phone messages and strangers looking for this individual. We had to convince them we did not know this individual and begged them to please update their database so we did not get harassed any longer.

Nowadays, everyone is attached to a smart phone, everyone has a phone number linked to his or her identity. There is also an IP address linked to your location. It seems these numbers are more important than who you are as an individual.

There is a number linked to a medication too. It is called the Drug Identification Number, short for DIN. The DIN is linked to a specific medication name, dosage strength, formulation as well as the manufacturer. As a pharmacist, I have been trained to always check this number to ensure we have selected the correct medication.  While the DIN is important, the medication name is just as critical. But lately, the medication names have also caused a lot of confusion. We used to always remember the Brand name medication which is often developed by the innovator company (such as Chanel) and that there are many generic companies making the same drug once the patent has expired (such as the no name Perfume).

However, the definition between brand name and generic names have become much more fuzzy.  For example, Lanoxin used to be the brand name drug for digoxin – a very old cardiac medication used for arrthymia and heart failure. However, Lanoxin is no longer manufactured. We now have Toloxin as the brand name drug but many clinicians continue to identify the drug as Lanoxin.  Nozinan is a brand name antipsychotic which is commonly used in the palliative care setting. Its generic name is methotrimeprazine. However, the brand name drug is not covered by the Ontario Drug Benefits. Another company makes the same drug under another name called Methoprazine and now this name seems to be the only name on the prescription label. Again, many people know what methorimeprazine is, not necessarily realizing it is now labeled as Methoprazine. Another example that drives me crazy is that when you prescribe nortriptyline, some prescription label only indicates the brand name drug, Aventyl.

How should clinicians keep track of all the different names and what they are? It used to be a good practice to always use generic names on prescription labels. However, I find that many pharmacies no longer follow this practice. I feel that there is an identity crisis happening in the  prescription names.

What do you think? Am I crazy?  Thank you for reading my post.


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My name is Cynthia Leung and I am a practicing pharmacist in Kingston Ontario, Canada. This blog is for me to share my ideas, opinions and perspectives on how medications are used in our health care system. Note that these posts are my own opinions and do not represent the opinions of my current or former employers and / or organizations that I may belong to. Any possible case scenarios described in my posts would be modified to maintain patient confidentiality. This blog is not a platform for professional advise for patients or health care providers and the content is not meant to support any clinical decisions or replace professional opinions. Also the images are either taken or created by the author, or adapted with permission. I hope you will enjoy reading my posts!

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