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Is ignorance bliss?

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 07 April 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:872
  1. Derrick Baxby, former medical microbiologist
  1. Liverpool

    In the old days a chemist would dispense prescribed medicine in an anonymous container with the minimum of information—three times a day and no alcohol, or whatever. Now a pharmacist will probably provide tablets in the manufacturer's original package—complete with generic and company product names, with a comprehensive leaflet describing the indications, contraindications, advice on overdose, and an impressive list of potential side effects. In some instances relatively detailed information is provided on the drug's mode of action.

    My seven tablets offer a choice of at least 130 side effects

    No doubt this is in keeping with the openness of the new NHS, and partly perhaps to meet health and safety requirements. Having worked in a medical school for 36 years I have some knowledge of my own subject and rather less of peripheral specialties. However, until recently I did not even know I had angiotensin-converting enzymes, let alone that they might need inhibiting. I find such product information leaflets interesting but also somewhat confusing and …

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