1. Aschenbrenner, Diane S. MS, RN


* The antipsychotic risperidone (Risperdal) and the dopamine agonist ropinirole (Requip) can easily be confused, and many medication errors have resulted from the confusion.


* These errors are related to several factors, including similarities in packaging, names, and prescribing instructions.



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Medication errors have occurred in the prescribing, dispensing, and administration of risperidone (Risperdal, Risperdal M-TAB), an antipsychotic, and ropinirole (Requip, Requip XL), a dopamine agonist used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease and restless legs syndrome. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that it has evaluated 226 errors-some of which have resulted in hospitalization-related to confusion between these two drugs. The confusion, which has increased since each became available as a generic entity (in 2006 for risperidone and 2008 for ropinirole), has been attributed to several factors, including similarities in both the generic and brand names, the frequency of dosing, the dosage strengths, and the container labels and carton packaging, as well as to the misreading of handwritten prescriptions. Photos showing some of the similarities can be seen on the FDA's Web page at


The FDA has directed the manufacturers to modify their packaging and labeling to help minimize medication errors. Nurses in the hospital setting should be aware that these drugs can be confused and check medications carefully prior to administration. NPs prescribing either medication should print the name of the drug carefully on prescription slips or spell it out if providing a prescription to a pharmacy by telephone. Additionally, they should teach their patients exactly what drug is being prescribed and what it's for. Patients should become familiar with the appearance of their medication and speak up if it looks different when a prescription is filled.