New label design makes drug use safer

September 15, 2008

A new label design from PharMEDium should make a medication's name and dose easier to read and recognize. The enhanced labeling will be applied first to four patient-controlled, IV pain-management drugs as well as local anesthetics for nerve-block therapy.

Key Points

Introduced by PharMEDium, a provider of outsourced intravenous (IV) compounding services, at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) summer meeting in June, the new label design is intended to enhance quality of care in the operating room, according to company executives.

The enhanced labeling will apply to four patient-controlled, IV analgesia (PCA) pain-management drugs – morphine, fentanyl, hydromorphone, and meperidine. The new labels will also be applied to local anesthetics for nerve-block therapy. Rich Kruzynski, RPh, president of PharMEDium, said that the platform will differentiate various PCA drugs in the company's offering as well as doses within each drug family. The changes in the labels will address the elimination of medication errors by putting important information at the top. Lot expiration date and company address will appear at the bottom.

The new labels will include features such as tall man lettering, color blocking, bigger fonts, and the use of different shapes to help differentiate the various strengths.

PharMEDium developed the new label design after conducting failure and effects mode analysis (FMEA) that focused on the overall readability of admixture labels. Rebecca Reagan, PharmD, associate director of the central pharmacy at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, said that the new labels provide several advantages. "We want to label epidurals by milligrams per ml, but the First DataBank upgrades and NDC number actually list it as a percentage. That can lead to errors, and we like the fact that [the new PharMEDium label design] now has the total dose and total volume, so the nurse can calculate it for herself," she said. Reagan also likes the fact that the lot number expiration date is very prominent on the IV bag and is easy to read.

Reagan noted that while much progress has been made regarding labeling issues as they pertain to reducing medication errors, she believes that "we are not as far along as we need to be." Michael Cohen, RPh, president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, said that the types of innovations that are part of the new PharMEDium admixture label design bring attention to the most important component of the label. "The drug name helps to differentiate the look-alike names like morphine and hydromorphone. We've had a lot of confusion with that. They are a lot easier to see than a lot of the hospital pharmacy labels in the past," he said.

Key features of PharMEDium admixture label design

Source: PharMEDium

ANTHONY VECCHIONE is a freelance health and medical writer based in New Jersey.