New Literacy Requirement for Physicians

“FDA has approved a brand name change for the antidepressant Brintellix (vortioxetine) to decrease the risk of prescribing and dispensing errors resulting from name confusion with the blood-thinning medicine Brilinta (ticagrelor). The new brand name of the drug will be Trintellix, and it is expected to be available starting in June 2016. No other changes will be made to the label or packaging, and the medicine is exactly the same.

Because of the lag time associated with manufacturing bottles with the new brand name, health care professionals and patients may continue to see bottles labeled with the brand name Brintellix during the transition period.

In a July 2015 MedWatch Alert, FDA warned that name confusion between Brintellix and Brilinta had resulted in prescribing and dispensing errors since Brintellix was approved in September 2013. Due to continued reports of name confusion between the two medicines used for very different purposes, FDA worked with Brintellix manufacturer Takeda Pharmaceuticals to change the drug’s brand name.”


(Albany, NY: May 3, 2016)
The New York State Board of Medicine has announced a new literacy test for physicians seeking to practice medicine in New York State

Multiple Choice Test for Medical Licensure in the State of New York:

Select the correct answer from the four choices:


1) These two drug names start with the same three letters, which means they can be substituted freely for each other, like herceptin and heroin
2) These two drugs start with the same three letters, but otherwise are different
3) These are names of towns in upstate New York; each has a Post Office, an Arby’s, and a gas station. They are indistinguishable, and can be substituted freely for each other, like Utica and Ithaca
4) These two drug names are indistinguishable, so Brintellix should be given a new name–something like Trintellix, or maybe Toronto

Correct answer: #2

Licensure candidates who chose #1: the DEA has some questions to ask you
Licensure candidates who chose #3: Your medical malpractice coverage has been terminated
Licensure candidates who chose #4: the FDA has a career opportunity for you

Ed. Note: Takeda/Lundbeck have already had a hard enough time establishing/differentiating Brintellix, no thanks to the FDA, which went against the recommendations of its own AC in rejecting the Brintellix label-expansion application.  Now they must, to some degree, start over. Isn’t it reasonable to expect physicians and pharmacists to be sufficiently attentive and literate that they can differentiate these two drug names? How dumbed-down does this system need to be?

Other Notes
Just as the May-June issue of NeuroPerspective was being released, the FDA granted approval to Acadia’s pimavanserin/Nuplazid, with the expected black box warning. While generally expected, it was still something of a relief to see the FDA follow through on its own stated willingness to grant approval based on one Phase III, and to see the Agency go along with the recommendation made by its own Advisory Committee. This interrupts a sequence of ill-considered and/or ill-communicated decisions announced over the past two months, vis-a-vis Newron’s Xadago, Takeda/Lundbeck’s Brintellix, and Catalyst Pharma’s Firdapse.

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