5 Jul, 11 | by Dr Richard Saitz, Editor of Evidence-Based Medicine
Pharmaceutical company advertisements (at least in the US) dutifully list a litany of side effects and other risks after presenting their benefits. Package inserts and many drug reference materials for health professionals do the same. The written lists are exhaustive and the print small, and in audiovisual ads the lists are read aloud faster than a seasoned auctioneer can run through bids. The drug makers are doing what is required of them by regulatory agencies. But the information is not usable by patients or even clinicians. Wouldn’t it be nice if patients and doctors could find the information they want and need easily? For example, how well does the drug work? What are the main side effects and risks and how often do they occur?
Woloshin & Schwartz propose a simple solution. Information boxes on medications similar to those on bags of potato chips or cereal boxes. But these boxes would clearly state outcomes of randomized trials quantifying results in medication versus placebo groups (e.g. absolute risks). Patients (and doctors) would then have information they can use when making decisions. A simple idea, with evidence in the literature already to support it. Their advice to the US Food and Drug Administration appears in today’s New York Times http://nyti.ms/mt2KHr Here at Evidence-Based Medicine, I would welcome papers on other innovations in communicating evidence to patients, and clinicians.