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Sen. Susan Collins Office Says Prescription Information On Leaflets Can Be Hard To Understand, And Sometimes Useless

| December 13, 2013

Senator Susan Collins says she wants medical patients, especially seniors, to have an extensive understanding about the risks, benefits and safe administration of their prescription drugs.  Collins held a hearing Wednesday 12/11/13  in the Senate Office over prescription drug information and drug safety.  The U.S Senate Special Committee on Aging, discussed ways to provide seniors and consumers with easy-to-read, accurate, and up-to-date information about the uses and risks of their prescription drugs. Collins says yesterday’s hearing was, in part, because of patient and advocates long expressing concern over the consistency of medication information. A number of options were discussed but no final solutions were reached.  As for prescription information…it’s typically on pamphlets that come with the drugs,  a local  pharmacist explains why that information can be hard to understand, and what can be done about it.

Pharmacist John Hebert from the City Drug Store in Presque Isle says, “it can be lengthy the font can be very small and often it contains medical terminology which can be difficult – in it of itself especially for our elderly clients it’s not a particularly useful document.”

Hebert says the best thing for pharmacists to do is have more interaction with patients, even come face to face and simplify what the information means. But it’s not always that easy.

Hebert, “insurance companies are telling our seniors where they have to fill their prescriptions either at a particular chain or worse yet through the mail, when that happens really the relationship is lost and we lose that face to face contact.”

During Wednesdays meeting, Senator Collins said the importance of easy to understand information is safety. Her office released information about a 2008 FDA study which found that, while 94 percent of consumers receive information leaflets with their new prescriptions, only 75 percent of the leaflets meet even minimum criteria for usefulness. The study also found that the FDA does not regulate information included in the leaflets.

Hebert, “as pharmacists we need to be proactive most of us prefer to get around the counter that’s why we went to pharmacy school we want to talk to our patients we want to improve their adherence to their medications and improve their outcomes.”

At Wednesday’s meeting in the Senate office, advocates and health officials discussed an FDA proposal to consolidate written information in an effort to make it more concise and consistent, and possibly even have ONLY electronic information, which Collins raised concern over since rural areas sometimes have limited Internet access and experience power outages. Right now, Hebert says Pharmacists can be advocates for seniors and other patients so that they better understand what they’re taking.

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