Product Mix-ups: Whitfield’s Ointment for Burn Ointment

Dispensing errors do occur. What can happen when a salicylic ointment is given to an unsuspecting customer instead of an ointment for burns?

The case

A middle-aged woman-lawyer bought an ointment for a tiny burn on her wrist. Arriving home, she applied a thin film of the ointment on her blister. But instead of experiencing a soothing feeling from the drug, she felt a sting from it that slowly became painful.

Examining the ointment, she realized she was given United Home Whitfield’s ointment instead of United Home Burn ointment.

The woman-lawyer had to sue the drugstore for its negligence.

United Home Whitfield’s VS United Home Burn ointment

Whitfield’s and United Home Burn ointments are both over-the-counter products of Amherst Lab and distributed by United Home. However these two are very different from one another. Whitfield’s ointment contains salicylic acid and benzoic acid. It is a topical antifungal drug indicated for tinea pedis (athlete’s foot), tinea cruris (jock itch) and ringworm. Whitfield’s is usually applied 2 to 3 times daily and contraindicated in open wounds.

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On the other hand, United Home Burn ointment, as revealed by its name is indicated for healing shallow burns. It is used to protect the affected area from infection. United Home Burn ointment also soothes itchiness and pain. It contains benzocaine, eucalyptus oil and boric acid. Like Whitfield ointment, United Home Burn ointment is also applied 2 to 3 times daily.

Boric acid as an ingredient of United Home Burn ointment can be absorbed from the skin that this topical drug is not advised for prolonged use especially in infants and in children.

Whitfield’s ointment for Burn ointment: Alarming result

As cited, Whitfield’s is contraindicated in open wounds, including blisters because of its salicylic acid content. Salicylic acid usually works as a peeling agent. It normally causes stinging that is not good for lesions.

A reminder: Although, dispensing error is normally the fault of the pharmacy, consumers should also be careful – read the label and ask questions if necessary.

© Phoenix Montoya @ September 13, 2011

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  1. Over-the-counter burn ointments are usually made for the consumption of public but licensed by FDA and have label for its applications. Better, consumers have a thorough knowledge of what OTC drugs they are buying, and the number rule is, ask the Pharmacist or salesperson in case you don’t know the uses of the drugs. Very informative article.

  2. thanks nice information

  3. Consumers should learn more about the medication prior to using it.

  4. That’s alarming. It really pays to examine your purchase before using it.

  5. I agree, consumers should understand the medication to be used

  6. thanks for this info.
    That’s a very terrible mistake.

  7. Interesting.

  8. This is very informative sis. We really need to be very careful with ointments that we are going to use.

  9. Another good share for those in the need cheers

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