Medicines’ labels too complicated for modern nanny comprehension
Warning labels on medicines should be simplified because words such as “drowsiness” and “avoid” are too confusing for modern patients, experts claim.Research by the British National Formulary (BNF), which advises doctors, nurses and pharmacists, found labelling that has been around for decades is now too difficult for members of the public to understand.
It found phrases such as “may cause drowsiness” are no longer “readily understood” and should now be simplified to say “this medicine may make you sleepy”.
Likewise, the phrases “avoid alcoholic drink” and “take at regular intervals” caused indecision among modern takers.
The report recommends the labels should now read “do not drink alcohol while taking this medicine” and “space the doses evenly throughout the day”.
The research was carried out by Professor Theo Raynor, and colleagues at the University of Leeds.
He said: “Most medicines do contain leaflets which provide detailed information for patients.
“However the leaflet may get lost, which means that the label on the medicine plays a very important part in guiding people’s behaviour.
“It is vital therefore that wordings on labels are simple and straightforward.”
Prof Raynor’s team tested a selection of instructions on almost 200 people aged 20 to 80.
The experts reworded phrases that people found confusing, and then retested them in several sittings, including one-to-one interviews.
Prof Raynor said “avoid alcoholic drinks” was a good example.
“Our user tests have shown that the word “avoid” can cause confusion and that some people think it only means they should limit their alcohol intake.
“This phrase will now be replaced by the instruction: ‘do not drink alcohol while taking this medicine’, which is far clearer.”
Other recommendations include changing “do not take indigestion remedies at the same time of day as this medicine” to “do not take indigestion remedies two hours before or after you take this medicine”.
Another phrase, “do not stop taking this medicine except on your doctor’s advice”, becomes “warning: Do not stop taking this medicine unless your doctor tells you to stop.”
The revised phrases are included in a new, updated version of the BNF.
“The software used by large pharmacy chains and independent pharmacist to print instruction labels is updated regularly, so we would expect to see these new phrases appear within the next six months,” Prof Raynor said.
Professor Nick Barber, a pharmacologist at London University, said: “When serious errors occur which cause harm to patients, it is often as a result of a series of minor failures at various stages.
“Therefore in taking more care about the wording of detailed instructions we can help improve the safety of medicines.
“With two million prescriptions being issued every day, a small percentage improvement through labels being more understandable could make a significant impact”.
Duncan Enright, publishing director at BNF publications, said: “It has never been easier to change labels on medicines given current computerised systems and therefore we hope that the large pharmacy chains and independent pharmacies will adopt these recommendations.”
The words “drowsiness” and “drowsy” are thought to date back to 1520 probably from the word drusan or drusian “to sink,” also “become languid, slow, or inactive” which are related to dreosan “to fall”.
Tags: nanny state, NHS Deaths, Nurses, preventable crisis, red tape, Risk of Drugs