Using pictogram labels to help patients with adherence

A study found that pictograms were useful to aid medicines adherence. 

Sample pictogram labels on drugs by Piotr Merks to aid patients in medicines adherence

In the UK, labelling of dispensed medicines provides a concise summary of all the essential information that patients need to take their medicine appropriately. In Poland, however, this is not the case; patients are issued with a paper card summarising drug administration instructions by their doctor. This lack of information has the potential to cause drug-related problems.

A study that investigated the use of pictograms to aid medicines adherence was outlined at the 74th International Pharmaceutical Federation Congress in Bangkok. In the joint project between the Medical University of Warsaw and St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey, Surrey, pharmacist Piotr Merks and colleagues set out to explore the opinions of Polish patients regarding the usefulness of cautionary and advisory pictogram labels attached to dispensed medicines. The study involved 33 patients (age range 22-80, average 44 years), 22 of whom were female. A total of 8,940 pictogram labels conveying directions or warnings were attached to these patients’ prescription and over-the-counter medicines over a seven-month period. The patients were then surveyed.

More than 50% of participants reported losing the instructions issued by their doctor, and 21% (n=7) had not received instructions from their physician at all. One-third of subjects (n=11) reported forgetting the directions they had been given by doctors. Twenty patients (61%) stated that they were not counselled by a pharmacist on how to use their medicines. The majority of patients (85%) felt that pictograms attached to their medicine boxes improved their compliance. Nearly three quarters of participants (73%, n=28) felt that all medicines should be labelled with pictograms.

The authors concluded that patients often lacked information from doctors and pharmacists about their medicines, and that pictogram labels were a useful means of countering this. Therefore, medication labelling should be introduced in Poland. However, there are significant obstacles to overcome. Pharmacy labelling in Poland was not considered a part of pharmaceutical care and approval from regulatory bodies was sometimes challenging. In addition, participating pharmacists were not enthusiastic about the process because applying labels was time consuming.

The project was supported by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, Using pictogram labels to help patients with adherence;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.20066598

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