Harvard Health Letter

Prescriptions for confusion

Some retailers have improved the pill bottle, but the written information that comes with medications is confusing.

Ideally, people would leave the doctor's office or the pharmacy with a clear understanding of their prescription medication — how much to take, when to take it, the risks, the benefits. But in reality, many conversations about prescriptions are incomplete. A study published in 2006 found that physicians explain the adverse effects and duration of a drug therapy in only about a third of their discussions with patients. Only about half the time did they instruct their patients about the number of tablets to take.

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