Informing patients about the drugs they take

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7053.315 (Published 10 August 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:315
  1. Barbara Meredith
  1. Senior policy and development officer National Consumer Council, London SW1W ODH

    Drug companies want secrecy, but patients deserve all relevant information

    As increasing numbers of prescription only medicines are released for sale over the counter in pharmacies, consumers would be right to ask questions about the regulation of information about medicines. To date, consumer involvement in the regulatory process has been limited or non-existent, and there are problems across the board in analysing the costs and benefits of over the counter medicines “due to the paucity of data about effectiveness and expenditure in the pharmaceutical sector.”1

    Hemminki and Herxheimer recently asked whether drug information should be treated as an integral part of health care.2 It is difficult to see how it could be otherwise, yet discussion of regulation and related issues throws up a catalogue of tensions and contradictions.3 Patients need information about medicines to inform their choices about health care. Yet the imperatives of commercial confidentiality and protection of academic, professional, and business interests reduce consumers' ability to find out about the history and potential benefits or disbenefits of both prescription only and over the counter medicines.

    We hear much about evidence …

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