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Last Updated: Friday, 22 July, 2005, 23:40 GMT 00:40 UK
Labels improve patient drug use
Sample prescription from Dr Masters' scheme
The prescriptions simply have an explanatory line added to them
A GP has designed a way to help patients understand why they are taking particular medications.

Dr Nigel Masters, from Hazlemere, Buckinghamshire, adds phrases such as "to lower cholesterol" to prescriptions.

He said it helps patients, particularly those on a number of drugs, understand why they should keep taking them.

Developing Patient Partnerships said the idea would help people be more involved in looking after their health.

This simple approach offers patients the opportunity to be more involved with their health and to take more control over managing their medicines as well as improving safety
Dr David Wrigley, Developing Patient Partnerships

The idea has been nominated for this year's Medical Futures Innovations Awards.

Dr Masters had the idea for labelling drugs with the reasons they were being given around three years ago when he was writing out repeat prescriptions for elderly people and having to double-check what some of them were for.

"I thought 'if I can't remember, how can the patient?'"

"Patients were taking these medications on trust, and compliance can be an issue.

"But people need to know why they are taking something."

Dr Masters began by putting information on repeat prescriptions for the elderly.

He then added explanations to prescriptions for people with diabetes and asthma, before deciding to expand the idea to all those who needed repeat prescriptions.

Health checks

Dr Masters has compiled a list of almost 600 drugs and reasons for taking them.

For example, a prescription for the drug amlodipine carries the label "to lower blood pressure". Diclofenac gel can be given "for arthritis pain".

Where conditions may be more sensitive, the wording is less direct.

The cancer drug tamoxifen carries the explanation "to prevent recurrence of disease" while sildenafil, better known as Viagra, is labelled "to prevent ED" - erectile dysfunction.

Prescriptions also carry health check reminders. So a prescription for the contraceptive pill will say "check blood pressure yearly", reminding the doctor, patient and pharmacist of the need for regular tests.

Dr Masters said patient confidentiality was an issue.

He said patients could choose not to have the explanations on their prescriptions.

But he added: "Very few have done so. And this idea has been well received by staff here and at the pharmacy."

Dr Masters, whose five-doctor practice has 5,800 patients, said: "Virtually every repeat prescription in the practice now has this labelling."

He said that for the scheme to be more widely used, the system needed to be computerised so more practices could make use of it.

"It needs to be an automated and standardised system."

His idea has already won an enterprise award voted for by GPs.

Dr David Wrigley, a GP from Lancashire and deputy chairman of the Developing Patient Partnerships, said: "This simple approach offers patients the opportunity to be more involved with their health and to take more control over managing their medicines as well as improving safety.

"There may issues around confidentiality but the control this gives to people could far outweigh these concerns."

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17 Nov 04 |  Health

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