Prescription drug labels need redesigning to make their warnings more obvious, according to researchers at Michigan State University.
It's estimated that, every 12 months, up to four million US residents experience side effects related to prescription drug medications. That's a number that could drop significantly with more effective drug packaging, the researchers say.
Right now, only a small number of patients actually read and take in the warning slogans written on drug bottles and, according to the research team, that's partly a result of them not being eye-catching enough. Eye-tracking technology allowed the Michigan State team to observe that 50 per cent of patients assessed did not even look directly at these warning labels but, according to one, drug manufacturers only need to make small adjustments to make their bottles stand out.
Prescription Drug Labels
"Given our results, we are recommending a complete overhaul of the design and labeling of the ubiquitous amber bottles, which have seen little change since their introduction some 50 years ago", MSU School of Packaging representative Laura Bix explained, in a Michigan State University press release published in mid-June 2012.
"Our initial recommendations would be to move all of the warnings from the colored stickers to the main, white label, which 100 per cent of the participants read, or to reposition the warnings so that they can be seen from this vantage point."
Drug Bottle Warnings
The press release adds that older patients could find changes to drug bottle warning labels especially advantageous, given that approximately one third of over-65 year olds take 10 or more different prescription drugs every single day and that, in general terms, they're more at risk of forgetting what's brought to their attention.
According to another MSU representative, the results of the university's research simply underline the direct link between product design and information retention. "By applying basic research on the control of attention to the design of labels, we may greatly improve their effectiveness", added Mark Becker. "This collaboration between the School of Packaging and the Department of Psychology makes such efforts possible."
MSU plans to undertake future prescription drug bottle-based research.