Providing distinctive names for new drugs has become more difficult because of the drugs section of the trademark registers has become so crowded. Most letter combinations have already be used. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are increasingly relying on variations of their own well-known, and trademarked, names. This results in families of drugs that treat the same condition but can differ in crucial ways, such as speed of action. Some hospitals are trying to combat the problem by asking doctors to write in capitals, but they are often too rushed to do so.
A 59-year-old kidney patient died in hospital after she was given the diuretic Lasix instead of the anti-ulcer drug Losec. Doctors said the mistake occurred when a nurse misread poor handwriting by the prescribing doctor. Similar mistakes in the USA have been reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. The British Diabetic Association is concerned about an abundance of similarly-named insulins.