Forum: Simplify medication labels

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The healthcare industry should simplify and standardize drug labels to cut down on patient errors, according to a panel of medical experts at a forum sponsored by The National Academies' Institute of Medicine. Nearly half of all patients misunderstand drug labels, including many elderly patients.

Variability in the wording of instructions, icons and warnings results in confusion, according to one professor of medicine at the roundtable. Older adults taking multiple medications are at the greatest risk of error, another professor noted. Labels should have explicit text, recognizable visual aids and simple language, he said.

While the Food & Drug Administration believes standardization is a good idea, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality said it is does not have strong evidence that changing labels will lead to better adherence.