Healthy Living

Expert calls for overhaul of labels on prescription drug bottles

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

There are about 1.5 million medication errors every year in the U.S. Some believe a big part of the problem is that people don't read prescription warning labels.

"It's derailing the whole process early on," said Dr. Mark W. Becker, a psychologist from Michigan State University.

Becker and packaging experts conducted a study to test their theory using eye-tracking technology. They gave people five prescription bottles and asked them to study the bottles like they would at home, then asked what they remembered.

They found that people spend a lot of time on the white label on the bottle, but often never looked at the warning label.

Seventy-one percent of the participants older than 50 failed to see the brightly colored labels, while 73 percent of young adults did read all the warnings.

Using bottles from the study, we did our own non-scientific experiment and asked two people to review prescription bottles. Then we asked what the warnings said.

"Good question. I don't know. I looked at the dosage, how many days you take it and what the drug was. I didn't look at the warnings," said Mark Weller.

Michelle Burke didn't read the warning label either.

"I guess I just didn't turn it around to look at that other side. I just looked at the main label," she said.

Becker and his team want prescription bottles overhauled. He believes moving the warnings from the side to the front label would prevent a lot of adverse drug events, particularly with older patients.

It's a seemingly simple solution to prevent a potential prescription for disaster.

There are no federal regulations for prescription bottle labeling. A U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention official said moving the warning label to the front of the bottle could be beneficial, but the USP doesn't recommend that it go onto the main white label because research shows putting it there could be overwhelming for patients and might cause them to miss important dosage information.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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