Prescription Label Study
Prescription medication labels are confusing to some patients. In a study published online in November 2006 for the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers interviewed 395 English speaking adults in Louisiana, Michigan, and Illinois who were in clinic waiting rooms.
The patients, for study purposes, were asked to interpret or explain directions on prescription labels. Of the incorrect responses, 52 percent involved dosage errors. For example, directions calling for a teaspoon of medication were mistaken for a tablespoon.
About 70 percent of study participants were able to state that a label said "take two tablets by mouth twice daily", however, only 35 percent of them were able to show the number of pills they would have to take that day.
People with lower literacy levels had more errors, but more than one-third of people classified as having adequate literacy misunderstood at least one label during the study.
So how do you avoid making the same mistakes? Be sure your doctor explains the instructions on all prescriptions your doctor writes for you. Have your doctor read the instructions to you. Also ask your pharmacist to read the directions to you when you fill the prescription.
Points to remember
- Have your doctor read the instructions to you.
- Write the instructions down in your handwriting on a piece of paper.
- Have pharmacist also read the instructions to you.
- If you are still unsure or forget, ask you doctor or pharmacist to review it again with you.
- Read auxiliary stickers added to prescription bottles which warn of special instructions or side effects. Only 10 percent of people in the study read those stickers.
1. Prescription Labels Hard to Understand, Ivanhoe <http://www.ivanhoe.com/channels/p_printStory.cfm?storyid=15017>
2. Study finds medication labels are 'confusing',Marissa Levy, USA Today, 12/10/2006
3. Literacy and Misunderstanding Prescription Drug Labels, Davis et al., Annals of Internal Medicine, November 2006 <http://www.annals.org/cgi/content/full/0000605-200612190-00144v1?