Simpler Labels on Prescription Drug Bottles. Duh!


Originally published 1/19/11 at The Doctor Weighs In

Read this from our friends at FierceHealthCare:

“Texting boosts medication adherence. So do ‘smart’ pill bottles. Now, U.S. Pharmacopeia, the non-governmental, standards-setting group for prescription and OTC medicines, has proposed another way to get patients to take their drugs as directed: better labeling for prescription drugs.”

Almost half of patients misinterpret dosage directions on Rx container labels, according to American Medical News. Poor medication adherence may cost up to $300 billion a year in healthcare costs that could be averted, according to a collection of healthcare trade groups.

USP has proposed that new labeling standards follow new guidelines such as:

  • Put the most important information at the top.
  • Use concise, yet explicit language (Take 2 tablets in the morning and in the evening, instead of “take two tablets twice daily.”
  • Avoid Latin terms.
  • Format labels with a large font size (12-point Times New Roman or bigger).
  • Pharmacies should include the drug’s purpose in normal English (for high blood pressure, instead of “for hypertension”).
  • Text should run horizontally across the label, never vertically.

Medical experts have called for simpler, clearer labels to help patients correctly take their meds for years. “It’s about time,” said Dr. Albert Wu, a member of an Institute of Medicine and American College of Physicians Foundation panels that made similar recommendations in recent years. “The new standards that are proposed make good common sense.””

I say it is a “no brainer.”  Presription instructions – on the bottle, not on some insert – that people can actually read and understand.  Way to go USP.  Now, we need to “just do it.”

Pat Salber MD, MBA is Principal of Zolo Health Solutions and writes at The Doctor Weighs In.

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