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Precise med labels clear confusion

U. LEEDS (UK) — Simple words will replace commonly used, but often misunderstood phrasing on medicine bottles dispensed from UK pharmacies to ensure patients are taking prescriptions as intended.

“It is vital that wordings on labels are simple and straightforward,” says Theo Raynor, professor of pharmacy at the University of Leeds.

“Most medicines do contain leaflets providing detailed information for patients, but these leaflets can get lost or overlooked.

“Patients’ behavior tends to be guided by the instructions on the outside of medicine bottles and packets of pills, so these must be as clear and unambiguous as possible.”

Around two million prescriptions are issued every day in the UK.

Raynor tested a selection of instructions on a large number of volunteers from the general public aged 20 to 80 years old. Confusing phrases were reworded using best practice in clear English. Revisions were then checked to see if they were easier to understand with more members of the public.

The proposed changes include terminology that is better understood by patients. For example, user testing showed the word ‘drowsiness’ is not always readily understood and has been improved by using the wording: ‘This medicine may make you feel sleepy.’

“Another good example is the phrase ‘avoid alcoholic drinks’. 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,” Raynor says.

“This phrase will now be replaced by the instruction: ‘do not drink alcohol while taking this medicine’, which is far clearer.”

More news from University of Leeds: www.leeds.ac.uk/news

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