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Pill bottle labels hard to understand

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Patients with poor literacy skills have difficulty in understanding the correct dosages to take from the instructions on medication bottles, according to a new study.

Patients with poor literacy skills have difficulty in understanding the correct dosages to take from the instructions on medication bottles, according to a new study.

Researchers in the US asked 395 English-speaking adults in waiting rooms to interpret the meaning of five pill container labels and to show they had understood one label's dosage instructions.

When shown the instructions 'Take two tablets by mouth twice daily,' only 35% of patients with low literacy skills could correctly infer the number of pills they should take each day from this.

Most patients paid no attention to auxiliary warning labels such as 'Do not take dairy products within one hour of this medication' and those with low literacy were more likely to ignore them.

The authors recommend giving specific instructions to avoid misunderstandings. For instance, saying 'take one pill at 8am and one at 8pm' is better than saying 'take one pill every 12 hours.'

Annals of Internal Medicine Online publication 2006

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