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Patient information on prescribed drugs

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 03 May 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1924
  1. Joanne Shaw, chairperson
  1. 1Datapharm Communications Limited, Leatherhead, Surrey, UK

New European legislation is a surprising and important step, but needs more work

According to draft legislation approved by the European Parliament in November 2010, people throughout Europe will be able to access basic factual information about prescribed drugs through channels other than doctors.1 Unless the legislation is rejected outright by the European Commission (which is unlikely), this apparently modest entitlement is an important step for European Union countries, including Germany, where information about drugs is available only through health professionals or by confronting the internet’s twin challenges of language and quality.

There is much to welcome in the new measures, some important detail to be clarified, and elements that fall short of what is needed. In particular, the proposed legislation does nothing to facilitate the provision of credible information from reputable providers that could help counter the often misleading information that patients bring into the consulting room.

The good news is that EU citizens will be able to obtain limited, preapproved facts about prescribed drugs in their own language, from the manufacturers. This basic, non-promotional information will include the product characteristics, package insert (patient information …

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