Blog | Thursday, May 14, 2009

Readable Rx labels: Clear but not compelling

Confusing prescription labels and poor patient adherence to medication are concurrent yet complementary problems. Fixing the former would seem to lead to improvements in the latter. That's what researchers hypothosized in a recent study that assessed the impact of Target pharmacies' easier-to-read labeling, introduced in 2005, on adherence to chronic medications.

But after analyzing 23,745 Target users (clear labeling) and 162,368 matched non-Target pharmacy users (presumably near-incomprehensible gibberish), researchers found no difference in adherence between the two groups. The new labels seemed popular enough, if the small increase in Target users is any indication, but they had no influence on behavior. The study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Undaunted, researchers optimistically concluded that, "while adherence may not be improved with better labeling, evaluation of the effect of labeling on safety and adverse effects is needed."

Will that research reveal that patients are less likely to adhere precisely because they finally understand all the fine print they couldn't be bothered to read before? Stay tuned.