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Rx Information for Patients: Too Much, Not Enough, or Just Plain Inconsistent?--March 2009

Author: Jessica A. Smith, Assistant Editor

When it comes to providing patients with information about their prescriptions, safety is the number one priority. Just how to strike the right balance of accuracy and comprehensiveness for patient drug information is the question being asked by several research groups.
 
The FDA is investigating how patient education pamphlets can be improved, and whether their content should be regulated in order to ensure that patients are receiving the most informative facts about their medications. Part of the concern stems from the fact that prescription information often varies from pharmacy to pharmacy.
 
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores has joined with a number of health care organizations to push for a single patient document that would help to eliminate confusion. Patients can become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information presented with medications, according to the association.
 
For some patients, too much knowledge of a drug’s possible side effects can actually make them sick. A phenomenon called the nocebo effect is defined by patients receiving placebos, yet experiencing adverse effects. One of the roots of the problem can stem from a patient’s expectation of negative outcomes from a drug, which some say is caused by being given too much information with a prescription.
 
Conversely, clinicians often override electronic drug warnings that are presented during the electronic prescribing process, according to a study published in the February 9, 2009, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. The nearly 3000 clinicians participating in the study overrode >90% of drug interaction alerts and 77% of drug allergy alerts, instead depending on their own judgment for patient safety.
 
For other articles in this issue, see:
 
Officials Promote Responsible Antibiotic Use
 
Patient Focus Behind Awareness Campaign
 
Momentum Builds for Law to Permit Rx Imports