Pictures Could be the Key to Prevent Prescription Drug Tragedies

Pictures Could be the Key to Prevent Prescription Drug Tragedies
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New research reveals pictograms on Rx drug labels help seniors understand medication instructions.

Simple images designed to convey information about prescription drugs could help save lives and reduce the economic burden of non-adherence to treatment, according to new research published in Applied Ergonomics. It shows that including pictograms on written medication instructions helps seniors take their drugs correctly.

Patients with multiple prescriptions can easily get confused and take the wrong medication, leading to hospitalization and even death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the cost of non-adherence to prescriptions, by taking the medicine at the wrong dose, time or frequency, is between $100-289 billion every year.

“Drugs are necessary to treat diseases and relieve symptoms, however, improper use of drugs can lead to serious consequences such as stomach bleeding and poisoning. We wanted to see if supplementary pictograms could help older people understand how to take their medication safely,” explained Dr. Annie Ng, lead author from the City University of Hong Kong.

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Dr. Ng and her colleagues found that including pictograms on a prescription drug label does help older people understand medical information and instructions. The pictograms provided information such as “take with meals” or “do not leave in direct sunlight” and warnings such as “poison” and “do not leave near children.”

“Information on medicine labels can sometimes be confusing, especially if a patient has several medications to contend with. Including a few simple pictures on a medicine label helps older people to read and understand this information. This not only prevents accidental overdose, it relieves some of the pressure that our aging population is putting on the health service by avoiding preventable tragedies,” Dr. Ng added.

Read the full article here.


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