Many people drive their cars everyday without ever reading the manual or plug in new appliances and throw the instructions out with the box. So, it is any wonder that people often take medications for years without ever reading the instructions in the package?
Doctors and pharmacists have often recommended that patients read the medication inserts that come with their prescriptions. In addition to keeping patients informed about their care, these instructions can help patients detect an error before it happens.
Another advantage to the written drug information is that it can be used for reference if the original instructions from a doctor or pharmacist are forgotten. They are also included in over-the-counter medications, which is useful for those who did not seek a pharmacist’s advice before purchase.
To make sure all patients can understand the information, all package inserts are required to follow a standard format and include the same groups of information. Manufacturers may vary the format somewhat, but most leaflets look much like the standardized nutritional facts labels on food items. Many have even gone one step further for comprehension, renaming sections such as “contraindications” to “who should not take this medication?” to draw a patient’s eye to important information.
In a recent case, a Nigerian doctor received a phone call from one of his regular patients. The woman was receiving treatment in the US.., and a physician prescribed a drug that was not supposed to be taken by a woman who was breastfeeding. It was only by reading the leaflet that came with the medication that she was able to avoid a potentially-harmful prescription drug mistake.