Research investigates written information for patients
New research published by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA)
programme suggests that most patients do not value the written
information provided with prescribed or purchased medicines and feel it
doesn't meet their needs. It recommends that patients need information
that is tailored to them, set in the context of their illness and
containing information on both the benefits of the medicine and any side
effects. The researchers also suggest that people who take medicines
should be involved in the development of such information, to make sure
it meets their needs.
Led by Professor DK Theo Raynor of the University of Leeds, the research
team conducted a systematic review of evidence about the role and
effectiveness of information provided to patients about individual
medicines. They assessed how patients and professionals value such
information, the role it plays in using medicines, and compared the
effectiveness of different ways of presenting the information, as well
as gathering the opinions of experts in the field.
The researchers found that while some professionals believe that the
primary purpose of written information is to increase patients'
compliance with instructions for taking a medicine, patients disagree,
using the information to help them decide whether or not to take a
medicine in the first place, as well as informing them about ongoing
medicine management decisions.
The way side effect risk is described has an important impact on the
understanding of the likelihood of side-effects. Readability of
information, in terms of language and visual presentation, is also very
important to patients.
"Our research shows that written information needs to be consistent
with spoken information from health professionals and flexible enough to
meet the needs of different patients at different times. To achieve
this, we need patient input into what the information says and how it is
laid out," says Professor Raynor. "The findings have been
presented to the
Commission on Human Medicines' (CHM's) Expert Advisory Group on Patient
Information and will be used to help to develop the future development
of medicines information."
"By July 2008, pharmaceutical companies must have taken into
account the views of patients for all existing medicines'
leaflets," says Joanne Rule, chair of the Expert Advisory Group on
Patient Information. "Leaflets approved by the Medicines and
Healthcare products Regulatory Agency have already begun to include
changes highlighted in this excellent report. Our challenge is to let
patients know that the leaflets are changing so that they use them and
to persuade health professionals to talk about the risks and benefits of
The research is published in full in the Health Technology Assessment
journal series Vol 11.5. To download the report visit
Notes to editors:
1. The HTA programme produces high quality research information
about the effectiveness, costs, and broader impact of health
technologies for those who use, manage and provide care in the NHS. This
is a programme of the National Institute for Health Research
(www.nihr.ac.uk) and is the largest and longest running of the national
programmes with 360 projects published since its inception in 1993.
About 50 are published each year, all available for download free of
charge from the website. It is coordinated by the National Coordinating
Centre for Health Technology Assessment (NCCHTA), based at the
University of Southampton. Visit www.hta.ac.uk for more information.
2. The Commission on Human Medicine's Expert Advisory Group on
Patient Information (PIEAG) was established in 2006 to look at how the
MHRA involves patients in issues about medicines safety. As well as
looking at further ways to improve statutory patient information
leaflets (PILs), the group offers advice on how the MHRA communicates to
patients about the medicines' risk/benefit debate. For more information
Ruth Allen, Communications Manager, NCCHTA, email
Naomi Stockley, Assistant Communications Manager, NCCHTA