Rethinking Healthcare

Confused by your prescription drug label? You may be on information overload

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The average prescription label lists 70 side effects, reported a new study from the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Take a look at your prescription bottle. If you’ve noticed an increasing number of side effects on your prescription label, you aren’t alone.

According to a new study, researchers found that the average prescription drug label lists 70 potential side effects, reported WebMD. On the higher end, one medication in the study listed 525 potential side effects, reported WebMD.

“It’s out of control,” said Jon Duke, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine, in a phone interview with SmartPlanet.

By looking at almost 5,600 drug labels, researchers were able to see which drugs had the highest list of side effects.

“The greatest number of side effects were found in antidepressants, antiviral medications, and some treatments for Restless Leg Syndrome,” said Duke.

Duke explained that the large number of side effects listed could put an extra burden on doctors, who are obligated to sort through the information in order to make informed decisions about medications on behalf of their patients.

“The current information overload is the rule rather than the exception," said Duke.

Although Duke pointed out that in the 2006 revision of drug labeling guidelines, the FDA openly discouraged the inclusion of "exhaustive lists of every reported adverse event, no matter how infrequent or minor,” said Duke.

"With current technology, drug labels could be transformed from lengthy static documents to dynamic resources, capable of delivering personalized patient information. Such labels could take into account the individual patient's medical conditions and highlight those side effects that could be especially dangerous," reported MyHealthNewsDaily.

The study, which was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, doesn’t explain how patients comprehend the information printed on prescription labels. However, in future research studies, Duke hopes to examine how doctors and patients read and process prescription labels.

Tell us: Do you read the back of your prescription bottle? Do you understand each side effect listed for your prescription?

Related links: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/12/01/health/webmd/main2222635.shtml

Image: Thirteen of Clubs/Flickr

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Stacy Lipson

Contributing Writer

Contributing Writer Stacy Lipson has written for Natural Health, MSNBC's Body Odd, HealthDay.com, Sprig.com, BNET.com, MarieClaire.com, MyDaily.com and Lemondrop.com. He holds a degree from Temple University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure