Month: June 2015

Improvements In Understandability Of Medication Label and Warnings Needed To Empower Patients

The reality is that a patient and his or her family realistically cannot be expected, without the assistance of a physician or other competent medical professional, to evaluate and determine in any meaningful and reliable way the suitability of particular medications or other treatments based on these warnings or alerts without the aid assistance of a competent physician or other medical professional knowledgeable about the patient’s overall condition and needs and the medication or other contemplated treatment. While the collection and dissemination of this information remains important to help ensure that patients in conjunction with their treatment team make the most reasonable informed decision possible in light of the currently available medical evidence, however, it is critical to keep in mind its limitations and the limitations on the ability of the average patient and his or her family to grasp and properly use this information to determine the proper course of treatment and properly use the medication to achieve the desired outcome with the minimum risk of side effects. Like most diseases, the lack of clear solution for the conundrum doesn’t mean we should abandon these warnings. However, it is critical we acknowledge that while patients need to be informed, evolving medical evidence and the technical nature of the findings of the moment limit the ability of most patients to properly assimilate the evidence and its associated warnings without the help of qualified medical professionals. Even when a patient understands the potential benefits and risks, the patient and their family often fail to properly grasp how best to use the medication to maximize its benefits. At best, the warnings should prompt patients and their physicians to discuss more fully the possible benefits and risks of particular treatments and how best to use the medications chosen to enhance the potential for the most desirable outcome with a minimum of side effects. Understanding and using the warnings and other information from research and medication labels can offer meaningful opportunities to enhance communication between patients and providers and educate patients about their choices and the steps to properly use the medication can help improve outcomes. To best promote this goal, however, Americans need to accept that the current manner in which warnings are provided in medication labels and advertising is unsuitable to achieve this goal in most instances and to make improving the understandability of this information and its proper use by patients in consultation with their physicians as a priority in their health care reform efforts.