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Gregory Spizer
Gregory Spizer
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Drug Labels – Keep it Simple

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A few weeks ago, Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz, Professors of Medicine at Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, wrote an op-ed article for The New York Times. In their article, Drs. Woloshin and Schwartz applaud the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) for requiring sunscreen manufacturers to specifically detail how well their products protect against UVB and UVA radiation. In light of this announcement, the doctors ask why prescription drugs should not also carry the same information.

The authors have a simple solution: fact boxes. Drs. Woloshion and Schwartz propose fact boxes, similar to what appears on food packaging, in every drug advertisement and every package of medication. The boxes would contain the risks and information about how well the medication works in a simple, easy to understand format. Amazingly, federal regulations do not require data on how well drugs work compared to other drugs or placebos and while a drug’s side effects are noted in advertisements and labels, there is no singular manner in which they are disclosed.

I agree wholeheartedly with the doctors’ opinions. We live in a busy world where doctors and patients do not have all the time necessary to understand every nuance of a pharmaceutical product. Information needs to be open, obvious and in a simple, readable format so doctors and patients can make the best and most informed choices regarding what medications they should or should not take. Fact boxes should be a requirement on any drug advertisement or package insert. Deciding on the right medication should not be like trying to solve a puzzle.