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ISMP Medication Safety Alert


WELLBUTRIN OR ZYBAN: WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Patients who take either Zyban® or Wellbutrin® should know that both drugs contain the same active ingredient, bupropion. Each of these brand-name drugs, while made by the same manufacturer, is intended to treat different conditions. Wellbutrin is used to treat depression; Zyban is used for smoking cessation. Therefore, a patient who is depressed and tries to quit smoking might mistakenly receive both drugs - resulting in a potentially dangerous, unintended overdose of the active ingredient. In such circumstances, it is quite possible for the duplication to go unnoticed.

Patients and caregivers can help greatly to protect against duplications and harmful drug interactions and errors by keeping a complete list of all medication you take and sharing the list with every health professional who treats you. To keep your list up-to-date and appropriate, always ask and write down both the generic and brand names of all your prescription drug products. Add to the list the names of all over-the-counter products you may take. Keep the complete list up-to-date and remind your health care provider of the drugs you take at each visit or telephone call. Using the same pharmacy for every prescription can also help prevent potentially harmful duplications, interactions, and errors. Pharmacists are specially educated to look for and prevent such dangerous situations and many pharmacies now have computerized software that also helps protect patients. Still, pharmacists and computerized safeguards can only protect you fully if you fill all prescriptions at one pharmacy, so that the pharmacist and computer system are aware of all the drugs you may be taking. If, because of your prescription plan, you are not able to use just one pharmacy, we strongly recommend that you ask your local pharmacist to keep a record of all of your medications in the pharmacy computer. Pharmacists can offer this service for a reasonable professional fee.

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