Ability of bottle cap color to facilitate accurate patient-physician communication regarding medication identity in patients with glaucoma

Pujan Dave, Guadalupe Villarreal, David S. Friedman, Malik Y. Kahook, Pradeep Y. Ramulu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Purpose To determine the accuracy of patient-physician communication regarding topical ophthalmic medication use based on bottle cap color, particularly among individuals who may have acquired color vision deficiency from glaucoma. Design Cross-sectional, clinical study. Participants Patients aged ≥18 years with primary open-angle, primary angle-closure, pseudoexfoliation, or pigment dispersion glaucoma, bilateral visual acuity of ≥20/400, and no concurrent conditions that may affect color vision. Methods A total of 100 patients provided color descriptions of 11 distinct medication bottle caps. Color descriptors were then presented to 3 physicians. Physicians matched each color descriptor to the medication they thought the descriptor was describing. Main Outcome Measures Frequency of patient-physician agreement, occurring when all 3 physicians accurately matched the color descriptor to the correct medication. Multivariate regression models evaluated whether patient-physician agreement decreased with degree of better-eye visual field (VF) damage, color descriptor heterogeneity, or color vision deficiency, as determined by the Hardy-Rand-Rittler (HRR) score and Lanthony D15 color confusion index (D15 CCI). Results Subjects had a mean age of 69 (±11) years, with VF mean deviation of -4.7 (±6.0) and -10.9 (±8.4) decibels (dB) in the better- and worse-seeing eyes, respectively. Patients produced 102 unique color descriptors to describe the colors of the 11 bottle caps. Among individual patients, the mean number of medications demonstrating agreement was 6.1/11 (55.5%). Agreement was less than 15% for 4 medications (prednisolone acetate [generic], betaxolol HCl [Betoptic; Alcon Laboratories Inc., Fort Worth, TX], brinzolamide/brimonidine [Simbrinza; Alcon Laboratories Inc.], and latanoprost [Xalatan; Pfizer, Inc., New York, NY]). Lower HRR scores and higher D15 CCI (both indicating worse color vision) were associated with greater VF damage (P < 0.001). Extent of color vision deficiency and color descriptor heterogeneity significantly predicted agreement in multivariate models (odds of agreement = 0.90 per 1 point decrement in HRR score, P < 0.001; odds of agreement = 0.30 for medications exhibiting high heterogeneity [≥11 descriptors], P = 0.007). Conclusions Physician understanding of patient medication use based solely on bottle cap color is frequently incorrect, particularly in patients with glaucoma who may have color vision deficiency. Errors based on communication using bottle cap color alone may be common and could lead to confusion and harm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2373-2379
Number of pages7
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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