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Researchers question effectiveness of warning labels on over-the-counter drugs
Date:3/31/2009

EAST LANSING, Mich. --- Medicine packages barrage consumers with information, some required to be "prominent" and "conspicuous." But marketing claims and brand names still overshadow critical fine print on nonprescription medications, Michigan State University researchers found.

In a study to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, MSU researchers examined the effectiveness of two required warnings on over-the-counter medications, specifically their relative prominence and conspicuousness.

"We wanted to quantify how well warning statements in over-the-counter drug packaging were working to convey information to consumers," explained Laura Bix, an assistant professor in the MSU School of Packaging. "To be effective, warnings about the lack of a child resistant feature, or those that alert consumers to potential tampering of the product, need to be read and comprehended at the time of purchase."

Medicine labels carry brand identification and descriptions of contents; quantity; price; ingredients; dosage; directions; barcodes; and warning statements. Federal regulations require packages that do not have a child resistant feature, for example, to conspicuously state that the product is not intended for homes with small children. Such packages are blamed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for a number of child poisonings every year.

Bix and her colleagues quantified the relative prominence and conspicuousness of five different label elements on the packages of OTC pain-killers: the tamper-evident warning; the child-resistant warning; the brand name; the drug facts information; and statement of claims such as "extra strength." They also evaluated how well test subjects remembered information presented on the product packaging.

Using an eye tracking device, the researchers found that people spent the most time looking at the brand of the product and significantly less time lo
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Contact: Mark Fellows
mark.fellows@ur.msu.edu
517-884-0166
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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