As many as 200 drug ingredient names are set to change later this year as the TGA moves to bring out-dated Australian drug names in line with international standards.
While most other countries follow the naming system developed by the World Health Organization, Australia bucked the trend following its own unique naming protocol – the Australian Approved Names (AANs) system.
But the TGA now says that system is confusing.
The drug regulator, who first announced the changes in 2016 as part of its International Harmonisation of Ingredient Names (IHIN) reform, says the update will reduce confusion for doctors who have trained or practiced overseas as well as patients and practitioners who travel internationally.
Writing in Australian Prescriber, Jerry Yik, policy analyst for the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia, has welcomed the move but acknowledged that there are short-term risks to changing drug names that doctors will need to help their patients overcome.
For instance, people with low health literacy rates can be put at risk of further medication errors.
“It is our responsibility as health professionals to convey these changes to patients to minimise confusion,” he said.
Many of the changes are expected to be either minor spelling differences or the addition of the hydration or salt to complete the drug name.
A four-year transition period for these changes started in April 2016 and will end in April 2020.
However, for more complex changes to drug names, dual labelling – which will see the new name followed by the old approved name in parentheses – will continue until April 2023.
Meanwhile, adrenaline and noradrenaline have received special treatment.
Those drugs will permanently carry dual labels. The TGA says the risk in changing the names completely to the internationally accepted epinephrine and norepinephrine is too great in terms of safe prescribing, dispensing and administration.
Adrenaline and noradrenaline will now always be known dually as ‘adrenaline (epinephrine)’ and ‘noradrenaline (norepinephrine)’, the drug authority has said.
The TGA is asking health professionals to be particularly careful when prescribing or dispensing these medicines, as labels using the old names will still be on-shelf during the transition period as older stock is sold.
They are also asking health professionals to reassure patients that only the names of ingredients have changed.
A full list of the affected medicines can be viewed here