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Date:1/25/2010

CHICAGO Replacing confusing language and icons on standard warnings labels for prescription medicine and listing only the most important warnings could make a big difference in how well patients understand the instructions that are critical to their health, according to a new study from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Simple, concise language on warning labels of prescription medicine bottles is easier for patients to understand than the standard wording commonly used, according to the study. And the fewer warnings on a label, the more likely a patient will actually pay attention to them.

For the study, Northwestern researchers and colleagues worked with patients and nationally renowned graphic designers to simplify and redesign the confusing language and icons of standard warning labels. Many of them have been used for decades without any evidence to show patients comprehend them, or even if they are true.

"The study shows the value of a clear message," said Michael Wolf, associate professor of medicine and of learning sciences at Feinberg and lead author of the study. "A lot of the current warnings were phrased very abstractly and were confusing. For example, we changed 'For external use only' to 'Use only on your skin.' We moved from the intangible to the concise."

Many of these label warnings are critical for patients to take their medications safely. But previous research by Wolf and colleagues found more than half of adults misunderstand common standard drug warnings, putting them at risk for using the medicine incorrectly or even having a life-threatening event.

As a result of the new findings, Wolf and colleagues from Emory, Harvard and Louisiana State universities are working with the U.S. Pharmacopeia on a drug labeling task force to help overhaul the content and use of these labels.

The study also found that newly designed icons improved understanding for patients with low
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Contact: Marla Paul
marla-paul@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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