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Two drug companies, Monsanto Co. and Pfizer Inc. have recently launched a campaign to make sure physicians and pharmacists do not confuse Celebrex with other similar-sounding drugs. Celebrex, a new and quite popular arthritis medication, sounds very similar to the drug Celexa, which is used to treat depression, along with Cerebyx, another similar sounding medicine which is used for seizures. Making matters worse, it's not only patients who are experiencing the confusion. To date federal regulators have received 95 reports of errors by doctors and pharmacists in dispensing Celebrex.

"This is an accident waiting to happen," said Hedy Cohen, vice president of nursing at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a Huntington Valley, Pa., nonprofit group that tracks medication errors. "It is a matter of time until a person that is already sick gets the wrong drug and the chance for a serious injury can occur."

As if this drug name mix-up and confusion isn't bad enough this frightening problem needs to be viewed in the light that even properly prescribed medications carry their own inherent risk factors. In The Journal of American Medical Association., Bruce Pomeranz, M.D., Ph.D., reviewed 39 different studies of adverse drug reactions in hospitals, and revealed some alarming data. According to Dr. Pomeranz, he estimates that 2,216,000 hospital patients experienced serious adverse drug reactions (side effects) and 106,000 patients died directly from those reactions in 1994 alone. This astounding number accounted for 4.6% of all recorded deaths in the entire United States for that year. This makes drug reaction deaths from properly prescribed medications the fourth leading cause of death in the country.

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