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British Doctor Says More Informative Prescription Labels Improve Patients’ Compliance, Safety, and Understanding

Jul 26, 2005 |

Doctors have known for some time that many patients simply do not follow the instructions on their prescriptions. Elderly patients and those taking several different drugs seem to have the most difficulty when it comes to following instructions.

Now, a British doctor has come up with an approach to prescription labels that encourage people to take a more active role in looking after their health as well as providing a greater measure of safety.

Dr. Nigel Masters of Hazlemere, Buckinghamshire (U.K.) adds brief phrases to prescription labels which indicate what the drug does or for what purpose it is being prescribed.

Dr. Masters finds that this approach helps patients understand why they should keep taking their medications. It also helps explain the relationship between different drugs when a patient has multiple prescriptions.

Finally, it helps his elderly patients more easily remember to take their medication since they can remember the reason why a certain medicine is being taken rather than have to remember drugs by name.

The idea has been welcomed by Developing Patient Partnerships who see it as a “simple approach” that “offers patients the opportunity to be more involved with their health and to take more control over managing their medicines as well as improving safety.”

Dr. Masters also includes health check reminders on drugs which require regular tests like “check blood pressure yearly.” Drugs for conditions which may be embarrassing or sensitive carry less direct wording like “to prevent ED” (erectile dysfunction).

Although patients may choose to omit the additional information very few have done so. Pharmacists also approve of the idea which has been nominated for this year’s Medical Futures Innovations Awards.

Eventually, the goal is to computerize the system so that more doctors can use it without any additional effort on their part when they write prescriptions.    

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