Medicine bottle labels could be changed to safeguard patients

4 March 2011

New research conducted by the British National Formulary (BNF) has shown that some medicine bottle labelling is potentially misleading and the organisation has called for widespread changes to the phrases used on patient's medication.

Pressure from the BNF could result in a shake-up of labelling within the next six months.

Theo Raynor, professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Leeds, said that the safeguards already in place - like the inclusion of leaflets - may not be enough to safeguard patient health.

Mr Raynor, who conducted the research on behalf of the BNF, 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."

He cited the example of medicine bottles that warn patients to "avoid alcoholic drinks". Mr Raynor said this should be changed to "do not drink alcohol while taking this medicine" as some patients believe the word "avoid" implies that they should limit their alcohol intake.

Recently, research from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine showed that complex medication regimens that involve multiple treatments can be extremely difficult to adhere to.

1 Raynor, Theo. "Clear English coming to your medicine cabinet". University of Leeds. Thursday, March 3rd 2011.

2 Wolf, Michael et al. "Helping Patients Simplify and Safely Use Complex Prescription Regimens". Archives of Internal Medicine. Monday, February 28th 2011.

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