Pharmacy leaflets have ‘untapped potential,’ say US researchers

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Pharmacy leaflets have an “untapped potential” for giving patients trustworthy, easy-to-understand information about their medicines, a paper published in JAMA reports.

Researchers from University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, Baltimore, discuss the “often overlooked” means of communicating drug information: pharmacy leaflets, and their problems and potentials.

“In contrast to medication guides and patient package inserts, pharmacy leaflets are ubiquitous. Typically stapled or stuffed into a paper bag along with a prescribed medicine, pharmacy leaflets are provided with prescriptions filled at a pharmacy,” the authors say.

They say that while plainly stated information about prescription medicines is best for patients, research suggests some patients do not value written information about individual medicines in the way the US now presents it: this information often lacks clarity in conveying potential risks and benefits of the drugs.

Medication guides, patient package inserts and pharmacy leaflets are all media which have gaps and deficiencies, they say.

“There is no reason why pharmacy leaflets could not include quantitative summaries of the benefits and risks of individual medications.

“Such information could be based on the results of high-quality systematic reviews as well as data found in the information the FDA uses to approve a medication for marketing.

“Improving pharmacy leaflets by incorporating such quantitative information presents an opportunity for further innovation.

“This is possible because pharmacy leaflets come from a trusted source, are ubiquitous, and, most important, are not regulated by the FDA and so do not require FDA approval of their use for new approaches to providing drug information.

At present, vendors usually write the leaflets that pharmacies distribute and therefore could improve these informational products.”

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