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davidtrump

Drug Name & Number Abbreviations

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Drug Name Abbreviations
Drug names may often be abbreviated, too. For example, complicated treatment regimens, like cancer treatment protocols, may be written with drug name abbreviations. As reported by the FDA, a prescription with the abbreviation “MTX” has been interpreted as both methotrexate (used for rheumatoid arthritis) or mitoxantrone (a cancer drug), and “ATX” was understood to be the shorthand for zidovudine (an HIV drug) or azathioprine (an immunosuppressant drug). These types of errors can be linked with severe patient harm.

Confusing Numbers
Numbers can lead to confusion and drug dosing errors, too. As an example, a prescription for “furosemide 40 mg Q.D.” (40 mg daily) was misinterpreted as “QID” (40 mg four times a day), leading to a fatal medical error. Another example has to do with drug dosage units: doses in micrograms should always have the unit spelled out, because the abbreviation “µg” (micrograms) can easily be misread as “mg” (milligrams), creating a 1000-fold overdose.

Numbers can also be misinterpreted with regards to decimal points. As noted in the Joint Commission's Do Not Use List, a trailing zero (for example, 5.0 mg) can be misinterpreted as “50” mg leading to a 10-fold overdose. Instead the prescriber should write “5 mg” with no trailing zero or decimal point after the number. Also, the lack of a leading zero, (for example, .9 mg) can be misread as “9” mg; instead the prescriber should write out “0.9 mg” to clarify the strength.

Modified-Release Technology
Common abbreviations are often used for modified-release types of technology for prescription drugs, although no true standard exists for this terminology. Many drugs exist in special formulation as tablets or capsules - for example as ER, XR, and SR - to slow absorption or alter where the dissolution and absorption occurs in the gastrointestinal tract. Timed-release technology allows drugs to be dissolved over time, allows more steady blood concentrations of drugs, and can lower the number of times a drug must be taken per day compared to immediate-release (IR) formulations. Enteric-coated formulations, such as enteric-coated aspirin, help to protect the stomach by allowing the active ingredient to bypass dissolution in the stomach and instead dissolve in the intestinal tract. See the table for timed-release technology abbreviations.

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