Anyone seeking evidence that many Americans are highly medicated need look no further than a recent Michigan State University (MSU) study, in which researchers say that more than 30 percent of all people in the country aged 65 and older take, on average, 10 medications each day.
Given the magnitude of that pill popping, it's hardly surprising that medication errors occur with startling frequency. One estimate posits that about four million people in the United States experience adverse side effects from prescription drugs each year.
Errors in medication are frequently associated with acts of medical malpractice or hospital negligence, and it is certainly true that a high number of persons harmed by prescription drugs can point directly to medical error by a doctor, pharmacist or other health professional as the catalyst for their drug injury.
The focus of MSU researchers, however, reveals that many adverse drug reactions owe to something else, namely, the ineffectiveness of warning labels on prescription bottles.
According to the research, only about half of consumers look at those labels, and more than 20 percent don't read anything on the bottle at all.
That warrants change, say the MSU researchers, with that change being long overdue.
The research team notes the inconsistent labeling that currently exists. Sometimes the warning is horizontal and at other times vertical. Sometimes it even wraps around the bottle. In most instances, the warning is on one or more colored stickers.
That whole scheme needs to be tossed, say MSU study authors, who recommend "a horizontal application at the bottom of the regular prescription information."
That means no more colored stickers and no more wrap-around information. Warnings should be clearly displayed on the front of the bottle at its base and on the main white label.
People might then actually start reading them.
Source: Detroit Free Press, "MSU researchers: Changing medicine bottle warnings will save lives," July 15, 2012