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Medicine information leaflets ‘must be clearer’, say experts


Have you ever opened a medicine packet and been overwhelmed by how much the information leaflet focuses on the possible side effects instead of the benefits? If you have, you’re in good company because the Academy of Medical Sciences thinks the same. In a new report, it calls for medicine information leaflets to be rewritten to give a more balanced view. A survey conducted by the academy discovered that the public was confused about the information on medicines and did not trust scientific research. Scientists have said clear communication with patients must be a priority going forward. The report says the list of side-effects contained in Patient Information Leaflets (PILs) is often very long and off-putting. As a result, people are made unduly anxious about taking medicines and this could be the reason why more than 50% of people actually stop taking medicine once they have started. There is also no indication of how likely the side-effects are to occur, with PILs often just labelling them as “serious” or “possible”. The actual benefits of the medicine are much less understated, often taking up far less space than the potential harms. Prof Sir John Tooke, chair of the Academy of Medical Sciences report, says PILs “aren't written from a consumer's perspective”. For example, instead of explaining how the medicine will reduce symptoms, many PILs describe what the medicine does in complicated biological terms.