A comparison of two user-friendly methods to identify and support correction of misspelled medications

Christopher R. Dasaro, Ahmad Sabra, Yunho Jeon, Tankeesha A. Williams, Nancy L. Sloan, Andrew C. Todd, Susan L. Teitelbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To identify and support correction of misspelled medication names recorded as free text, we compared the relative effectiveness of two user-friendly methods, used without reliance on clinical knowledge. Methods: Leveraging the SAS® COMPGED function, fuzzy string search programs examined 1.8 million medication records from 183,600 World Trade Center General Responder Cohort monitoring visits conducted in New York and New Jersey between 7/16/2002 and 3/31/2021, producing replicable generalized edit distance scores between the reported and correct spelling. Scores < 120 were selected as optimal and compared to Stedman's 2020 Plus Medical/Pharmaceutical Spell Checker first suggested word, used as the comparative standard because it employs both spelling and phonetic similarities to suggest matching words. We coded each methods’ results as identifying or not identifying the medications within each visit. Results: Most types of medications (94.4 % anxiety, 98.4 % asthma and 94.6 % ulcer/gastroesophageal reflux disease) were correctly spelled. Cross tabulations assessed the agreement (anxiety 99.9 %, asthma 99.6 % and 98.4 % ulcer/ gastroesophageal reflux disease), false positive (respectively 0.02 %, 0.03 % and 2.0 %) and false negative (respectively 1.9 %, 0.5 % and 1.0 %) values. Scores < 120 occasionally correctly identified medications missed by the spell checker. We observed no difference in medication misspellings across socio-economically and culturally diverse patient characteristics. Conclusions: Both methods efficiently identified most misspelled medications, greatly minimizing the review and rectification needed. The fuzzy method is more universally applicable for condition-specific medications identification, but requires more programming skills. The spell checker is inexpensive, but benefits from modest programming skills and is only available in some languages.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102765
JournalPreventive Medicine Reports
StatePublished - Jul 2024


  • Diversity and medications information
  • Free text medication names
  • Fuzzy string matching
  • Medications spell checker
  • Medications spelling correction
  • World Trade Center


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