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Larger type, simplicity sought for labels

Labeling standards proposed at the U.S. Pharmacopeial meeting seek to help patients read and understand labels on medical containers.


Admittedly, this editor’s eyes aren’t as sharp as they once were. So it’s good to see that larger font sizes may be in store for prescription med containers. That’s the word in a January 17 report from American Medical News.

The article focuses on “labeling standards proposed in January by the influential U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention” that recommended pharmacy labels emphasize patient name, drug name and strength, and dosage instructions at the top. Recommendations also include the use of simpler, more concise language, with specific instructions, such as “Take two tablets in the morning and in the evening,” instead of “take two tablets twice daily.”

Simpler language and larger font sizes could help patients better understand dosage instructions, comprehend warnings, and take their meds as needed, according to the article. “If no substantive changes to the USP proposal are made, a final standard would be published in November 2011 and become official in May 2012,” said the story, attributing the dates to Shawn C. Becker, director of health care quality standards at USP.

Label readability has also concerned operating room nurses when selecting medical device packaging for surgical procedures.

The article concluded by quoting Dr. Joanne Schwartzberg, director of aging and community health at the American Medical Assn. In discussing how the proposed label standards could benefit elderly patients, she said, “This is such a significant problem. I can’t even guess how many lives could be saved by it.”

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