Sunday, May 05, 2013

A thought about the provision of information

The idea of those long instruction sheets one gets with a bottle of pills from the drug store is supposed to be to inform the patient of the risks involved in taking that drug. On average they would take something like 20 pages of normal size text. So, of course, patients don't understand them if they try to read them, and thus don't read them.

I think this is a case of different priorities of the regulators and the company lawyers. The regulators want to decrease bad side effects of medicines; the company lawyers want to avoid successful law suits against their companies by people suffering from those side effects.

Of course, one hopes that doctors and pharmacists have the information necessary to inform patients of what to watch out for. Back up systems for the provision of information help. But then the doctors and pharmacists also have their own interests to protect.

Maybe one way out would be to do (social science) research on the nature of ways to provide that information that minimizes the negative side effects. Scull and crossbones labels, child proof tops, etc. seem to help.

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