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Prescription Drug Labels May Become Standardized to Avoid Confusion

Confusion on the Drug Labels

Confusion on Prescription Drug Labels

The nonprofit group responsible for medicine label standards is known as the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention(USP) is promoting standardization of prescription medicine labels. They also would like to incorporate clearer language on these labels to avoid patient confusion.

The USP wants to keep the drug name, patient instructions and dosage displayed prominently in clear, large type at the top portion of the label. At the same time, they want to put less important information, such as the name of the pharmacy and the quantity of the medication off the part of the label with the instructions.

These new instructions would eliminate confusion. For instance, instead of reading “take two tablets twice daily,” the new labels would read, “take two tablets in the morning and two tablets in the evening.” Also eliminated would be ambiguous instructions such as, “take as directed.” Another example of simpler language comes with the term “hypertension,” which would be changed to “high blood pressure.”

Our Flawed System

At present, drug labels vary between pharmacies. The suggested new labels would standardize all information on medicine labels. Joanne G. Scwartzberg, M.D., and a member of USP, released the following statement concerning the new labels, “Lack of universal standards for labeling on dispensed prescription containers is a root cause for patient misunderstanding, non-adherence and medication errors.”

Research has shown that 46% of patients cannot understand one or more prescription medicine instruction, and patients with poor reading skills are 34 times more likely to misunderstand instructions on medicine labels. According to the USP, studies have found that 46 percent of patients misunderstood one or more dosage instructions on prescription labels.

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