Informing Patients About Drugs

Summary Report on Alternative Designs for Prescription Drug Leaflets

by David E. Kanouse, Sandra H. Berry, Barbara Hayes-Roth, William H. Rogers, John D. Winkler


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The research reported is the most thorough investigation to date on the effects of patient package inserts (PPIs). Users of each of three prescription drugs (conjugated estrogens, erythromycin, and flurazepam hydrochloride) received one of several different prototype PPIs with their prescriptions and were subsequently interviewed by telephone. For two of the three drugs studied, the design provided a control group that received no PPI. The principal findings include: (1) PPIs are likely to be widely read; (2) patients learn from written drug information and find it helpful; (3) PPIs seem to have little effect on how patients use a drug; (4) warning patients about potential drug side effects does not, by itself, cause patients to experience these effects through suggestion; (5) there is little advantage to be gained by highlighting information about a drug's risks; and (6) the simplicity with which a PPI is written has surprisingly little effect.

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