USP backs patient-friendly Rx labels

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Oct. 29, 2012

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The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention will publish a final standard on prescription-drug labeling in November that may push state pharmacy boards to require labels that are easier for patients to understand.

The standard emphasizes prominent display of explicit instructions, the medication purpose and other information in simple, uncondensed fonts of 11-point type or larger. For example, instead of saying, “Take two tablets twice daily,” a label should read, “Take 2 tablets in the morning and 2 tablets in the evening.” Whenever possible, the standard says, labels ought to be provided in the patient’s preferred language.

“Lack of universal standards for labeling on dispensed prescription containers is a root cause for patient misunderstanding, nonadherence and medication errors,” said Joanne G. Schwartzberg, MD, director of aging and community health for the American Medical Association and a member of the USP panel that developed the new standard.

Studies have found that about half of patients misunderstand prescription labels, with about two-thirds of patients with low health literacy misinterpreting the printed information on their drug containers. Examples of labels that comply with the new standard are available at a USP Web page (link).

Note: This item originally appeared at

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