FDA warns of deaths due to similar-sounding drugs

January 22, 2008

Edetate disodium and edetate calcium disodium have very similar names, but do quite different things to the body...

Edetate disodium and edetate calcium disodium have very similar names, but do quite different things to the body. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a Public Health Advisory that several people, including at least one child, had died due to the two drugs being confused. Both go by the nickname EDTA.

Edatate disodium is used off-label to remove excess calcium from the bloodstream, while off-label edatate calcium disodium removes excess lead. Other drugs have since been approved that do the job of edatate disodium, but not edatate calcium disodium.

FDA suggests that formularies determine if edatate disodium needs to be kept in stock or not, and if not to only have edatate calcium disodium. Other suggestions include using the full product name and not just EDTA, each healthcare provider checking the correct drug name, and remembering that most uses of both drugs are still off-label.