Madison, WI—Especially for older adults, OTC medication use too often leads to adverse drug reactions (ADRs).

An article in JAPHA notes that the Drug Facts Label (DFL) ostensibly is there to provide consumers with information that would avoid ADRs. Consumers often fail to absorb the critical information, however, according to the report.

University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy–led researchers posit that increasing emphasis on critical information by placing it on the front of the package might make it more effective. Before doing that, they point out, the most critical information from the DFL needs to be identified.

The authors designed a study to determine which information from the DFL is most critical in reducing ADRs at the time of purchase or use by older adults.

To do that, the study team conducted a national survey of practicing pharmacists knowledgeable about OTC medication use by older adults and asked participants to rank-order the importance of the DFL sections to reduce ADRs in older adults.

The researchers used open-ended questions to pinpoint ways of improving OTC medication labeling, while quantitative rankings were used to calculate the content validity ratio and analyzed using Wilcoxon signed rank tests.

In 318 responses (12% response rate) analyzed, the authors found high consensus that uses and purpose, active ingredient, warnings, and directions for use were the most important sections of the DFL.

Within the warning section, they report, two specific warnings—“Do not use” and “Ask a doctor or pharmacist”—were considered most important. “Similarly, qualitative themes focused on seeking healthcare provider assistance or were specific to age-related precautions,” the researchers add.

“Prioritizing warnings that highlight the importance of possible drug-drug and drug-disease precautions and the need to seek medical advice before taking OTC medications were deemed most critical,” the authors conclude. “Moving this type of information to the front of the package may help reduce ADRs among older adults.”

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