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Zyra 2002/12/27

A piece of advice to manufacturers of generic prescription drugs...

Generic prescription drugs - good idea! Keeps the price of medication down. But there is a problem I have observed, which needs to be thought about. Then again, you're not going to listen to me, are you? I'm not a doctor, and I'm not a pharmacist, in fact I have no qualification apart from the fact that I know what I'm talking about! I am a patient, a diabetic coeliac paranoid schizophrenic, someone who has experience of various illnesses, and I can tell you that I believe there is a piece of advice here which could save someone's life. A wise person can learn from a fool, so here's something to heed in advance, rather than waiting to learn by "sad news".

It's all to do with the packaging. It might at first seem quite smart to package every generic prescription drug in near-identical packaging, sort of a marketing image, and of course any person can tell the difference easily, provided the light is good, and they can see well, and they can read, and they are in good health. Indeed, in a pharmacist's shop there is absolutely no problem telling the difference between your diazepam and your zopiclone and your oxytetracycline etc! But that's not how the patient sees it. It might be night time, and the person might not be well! And there might be some kind of delirium or confusion, and then, just perhaps, there might be a mistake!

I'm not suggesting making all the drugs in totally different packages with different shapes and sizes, after all you've got to keep the price down, but just stop trying so hard to make them all look the same! Even if you feel you have to make the boxes exactly the same size, and it's not obvious why, at least make the designs on the boxes different, and at least reduce the risk! Just a small variant may help!

And even if you can't make them all different, at least make the riskiest of items a bit different from each-other to distinguish them from the less risky items! By "risky" I mean items on which a double-dose is an overdose. When you've been unwell as long as I have you know that an extra diazepam isn't going to be dangerous, but make that paracetamol, or something even more critical-level, and we're talking "worry" here!

Look, I have three boxes here, all with entirely different generic drugs in, all made by the same reputable company, and all the boxes are the same dimensions, with the same logos, and exactly the same shade of colour and the same graphic design, and even the same type font. Only the words differ. Try reading THAT in the middle of the night under a subdued lamp when having an episode of something nightmarish?!

Sooner or later, if this issue isn't resolved, someone will die because of it. They'll take the wrong medication because the packs looked the same. This isn't some legalistic issue; it's a matter of saving someone's life. Better to think ahead rather than wait and then read about a tragedy in the newspapers and let the knee-jerk reactionist government enact some daft legislation to prevent it happening again.

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