AstraZeneca effort aims to curb inaccurate dispensing

WILMINGTON, DE: AstraZeneca has launched a campaign to educate healthcare professionals and the public about accurate prescribing and dispensing of the drug Toprol-XL, used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure.

WILMINGTON, DE: AstraZeneca has launched a campaign to educate healthcare professionals and the public about accurate prescribing and dispensing of the drug Toprol-XL, used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure.

The in-house effort responds to a 2005 FDA request asking AstraZeneca, Ortho-McNeil, and Novartis to educate healthcare pros about the dangers of inaccurate drug dispensing. The FDA discovered patients were getting the wrong medication due to oversight by doctors and pharmacists.

In this case, providers were confusing Toprol-XL with Ortho's Topamax, used to treat epilepsy, and Novartis' Tegretol, used to treat complex partial seizures. In all cases, patients were given heart medication instead of the seizure medications, noted Elizabeth Shaheen-Dumke, AstraZeneca PR associate. There were no fatalities.

"We [looked] at the products to see what caused the confusion," she said. "The fastest way to alert healthcare pros was via [e-mail alert systems] MDAlert and PharmAlert; the FDA also issued an alert on PharmWatch, as well as instating an 800-number." No PR firm was used for the effort, she added, though the company's AOR is Edelman, New York.

Information is being posted on Toprol-XL.com. Its "Know Your Medication" section has detailed photos of what the medication should look like in different doses.

AstraZeneca's campaign will include ads in Golf Digest, Ladies' Home Journal, Ebony, and US News & World Report. Toprol-XL's packaging was changed from white to blue and the "prol" was highlighted. A consumer direct-mailer is beginning in the coming months to highlight the issue.

"We want to empower consumers to double-check medication," said Shaheen-Dumke, "but essentially, the liability lies with healthcare pros and pharmacists."

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