When you pick up a prescription, it usually comes with a pamphlet of information that details risks and side effect warnings. Some drug manufacturers also provide side effect warnings and information on their website or printed on the bottle of the drug. A recent study, however, found patients rarely read the risk information about prescription medication.
In the study, published in the Journal of Risk Research, 80 percent of participants — or 23 out of 29 participants — claimed to have read at least half of the drug risk information presented on a website. Using eye-tracking measures, however, researchers found participants either read very little risk information, or none at all, while they scrolled through the site.
The information printed on the labels and pamphlets comes from data gathered during clinical trials conducted as a company seeks to bring a drug to the market, according to John Moore, DO, FAAFP, Aetna’s medical director for the U.S. Northeast Region.
80 percent of participants in the study claimed to have read at least half of the drug risk information
“The information on that printout and on the bottle is important,” Moore said. “Keep in mind that you may not experience any of the side effects listed. If you do experience side effects, chances are they will be minimal and short term as your body adjusts to the medication.”
The prescribing physician will sometimes tell patients of side effects or drug risks, but it may be limited to either important information or “unusual” effects, according to Jay Rajda, MD, MBA, FACP, Aetna’s chief clinical transformation officer. Patients can also ask their pharmacist any questions about the prescription medication, Rajda added.
“There may be a long list of side effects, so It’s unlikely doctors will be discussing all of them with a patient,” Rajda said, “That’s where the pharmacists can educate the patient on the potential side effects of the medication and the patient themselves can be more proactive to understand the full profile of side effects.”
Other important types of information
Since 1992, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has received nearly 30,000 medication error reports
The labeling on a drug bottle also describes what the medication will look like and the specific dosage, Moore said.
“Look at the prescription label on the bottle. Check all the details, such as your name, the drug’s name, the directions, the ordering health care professional and the way the pill is described on the label to make sure it matches the pill that’s inside the bottle,” Moore said. “Make sure that pill in the bottle matches what’s on the label and that the medication listed is what your health care professional said you should be taking.”
While receiving a different medication from what was prescribed can be rare, Moore emphasized it is good practice to look at the label and ensure you received the right medication. Since 1992, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has received nearly 30,000 medication error reports, which are self-reported. While analyzing data from 1993 to 1998, the FDA found 16 percent of medication errors was due to giving the wrong type of medication.
What you can do
Technology can help keep track of medication and provide important information on each drug
Today, there are a number of applications and other technology on the market that helps people keep track of their medication, Rajda said. Some also provide information on risks and side effects to help patients manage their health.
For those taking a prescription medication and are experiencing unexpected, atypical or persisting side effects that are difficult to tolerate or not tolerable, Moore advises contacting the ordering health care professional as soon as possible in order to review the side effects.