Patients think medicines leaflets exaggerate side-effect risk

Nearly half of people believe information leaflets that come with medicines exaggerate the risk of side-effects and many are prepared to buy a medicine from outside a pharmacy even if the pharmacist has advised them against doing so, a study by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has found.

The online survey revealed that 41% of people think information leaflets exaggerate side-effects, with just 32% saying they always read the leaflet, and 27% said they would go to a supermarket, garage or another place other than a pharmacy to get a medicine a pharmacist has cautioned is unsuitable for them.

Another 40% said they sometimes get irritated when counter staff ask safety-related questions before handing over a medicine and 15% even admitted to lying about their health to pharmacy staff so they can get hold of a medicine.

Sixteen per cent collected a prescription medicine without any intention of using it on at least one occasion instead of talk to their doctor or pharmacist while 52% and 43% said they were uncomfortable challenging the advice of a doctor and pharmacist respectively.

However, almost nine in 10 people thought they would get the most from their medicine and reduce their risk of harm if they spoke to their pharmacist.

The release of the survey, which was carried out in September, coincides with Ask Your Pharmacist Week (November 5-12).

“If used inappropriately, medicines have the power to harm as well as to heal, even medicines you can pick up from a supermarket shelf or a pound shop,” said Leyla Hannbeck, director of pharmacy at the NPA.

“So it’s important to take professional advice, and in particular to have a full and frank dialogue with your local pharmacist.

“Answer any questions asked by pharmacy staff accurately and fully, so that the pharmacist can be sure that the medicine is safe for you and that your symptoms don’t indicate a serious underlying health problem.

“If you aren’t satisfied with the advice given in the pharmacy, feel free to challenge it. A good pharmacist will not be offended and should welcome the opportunity to reassure you, to clarify, or to discuss alternatives.”


Picture: AntonioGuillem (iStock)


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