Imagine suffering from a debilitating health condition that can only be managed with the help of prescription medication. Now, imagine trusting that medication to ease your pain — only to have it cause an adverse reaction in your body. This isn’t just a simple case of unintended side effects. This is exactly the kind of scenario that could happen if you were to take the wrong medication. You might think that you could easily avoid this situation by reading the label first, but what if your trusted blood pressure medication were actually mislabeled by accident?
These incidents are real and they do happen, such as when the pharmaceutical company, Accord Healthcare, mislabeled their hydrochlorothiazide product, which is a popular medication for treating high blood pressure. Instead of containing 100 tablets of hydrochlorothiazide at 12.5 milligrams each, the bottles wrongfully contained 100 tablets of spironolactone at 25 milligrams each. Spironolactone is an edema medication that is used for the treatment of symptoms relating to organ failure of the heart, kidney and liver.
When Accord Healthcare was made aware of the mix-up, they were forced to issue a voluntary recall of all the affected lots of the drug. While spironolactone can also be used to treat high blood pressure, this is not what it was initially meant for. It was designed for treating fluid retention in persons suffering from organ failure. When taken, it can also increase the levels of potassium in one’s bloodstream. However, for some people, a sudden increase in potassium levels could potentially be life-threatening. When taken in large doses, spironolactone may also cause arrhythmia and heart issues.
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Other brands of blood pressure medication were not affected by Accord Healthcare’s recall of their hydrochlorothiazide product. Furthermore, no injuries associated with the label error were reported.
Dangers of mislabeled drug use
According to a report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, over 1.5 million Americans are injured each year due to drug labeling errors. These errors could have been easily prevented if the drug companies made sure to have accurate prescription labeling for their drugs. Labeling errors can potentially cause a number of health risks. Here are a few of these critical health risks:
- Unwanted side effects. Most drugs already cause unintended side effects even when you take the correct one meant to treat your specific condition. Taking the wrong medication might just aggravate your condition and result in even worse side effects.
- Dangerous drug interactions. If you are already taking other medications, they could cause adverse effects if they are mixed with the incorrect medication you may accidentally take.
- Accidental overdosing. If the label includes a recommended dosage greater than what your body can handle, it can cause organ failure in your kidneys and other vital organs.
- Insufficient dosage strength. On the other hand, a dosage error can just as easily cause you to take too little of the needed medication, resulting in possible pain or injury, such as in the case of heart medication.
- Unnecessary exposure to drug toxicity. Taking the wrong drug, especially in a large dose, can cause you to go into toxic shock and possibly suffer from brain damage.
To prevent any unwanted injuries, incorrectly labeled drugs must always be pulled off the market immediately once they are discovered. The companies making these medications should always issue a public apology whenever such incidents happen. You should also be responsible for what you put into your body. Constant vigilance is the only solution. There will always be a possibility that the over-the-counter (OTC) drugs that you purchase might contain an entirely different medication altogether. (Related: Recall of medication for high risk heart attack and stroke patients: Clopidogrel, sold as Plavix, has been mislabeled and recalled.)
Learn more about the dangers of drug misuse by going to DangerousMedicine.com.