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Most prescription labels fail to meet guidelines, risking dosage errors
Date:7/9/2014

Small print and poor printing on prescription labels handed out by pharmacists may be misread and may lead to errors in taking medication, according to new research by the University of Waterloo and CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind).

The study, published recently in the Canadian Pharmacists Journal, found that labels on prescription medications dispensed by pharmacies do not consistently follow professionally recommended guidelines for legibility.

By simply following recommended guidelines for font size, use of bolding, justification, sentence case and spacing, researchers expect pharmacies can improve the legibility of their labels without the need for new technologies or larger labels.

"Surprisingly, there are few guidelines and no regulations for the print on prescription labels in Canada," said Dr. Sue Leat from Waterloo's School of Optometry and Vision Science. "In Ontario, regulations specify only the content of prescription labels, not how they appear."

Health professionals and patients are finding label appearance is more important as a significant number of older Canadians experience vision and reading comprehension problems. Patients also prefer to read their own prescriptions to preserve their privacy and independence.

Researchers asked 45 pharmacies in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge to print a sample prescription label with the patient's name, drug name and instructions for use. The sample label was then compared with label printing recommendations from pharmaceutical and health organizations, and non-governmental organizations for readability.

The results show that less than half 44 per cent of labels met the minimum font size of 12 points. Only half of labels were printed left-justified and few met the recommendations for best use of spacing.

All labels used capital lettering, which is difficult for patients with eye problems to read, instead of the recommended sentence case.

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Contact: Nick Manning
nmanning@uwaterloo.ca
519-888-4451
University of Waterloo
Source:Eurekalert

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