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Importance of Patient Information Leaflet

The information enclosed in my medication box is overwhelming, what do I do?


Ever wondered why you see the lengthy information enclosed in a prescribed or Over The Counter (OTC) medication packaging?

The enclosed document is known as the patient information leaflet (PIL). Some patients tell me that reading this information discourages them from taking their medication as the information is scary; for instance the listed possible side effects or adverse drug reaction i.e. what could happen to them if they took the medication or how their body may react to it.

Several studies have been conducted to show whether PIL are beneficial to aid medication compliance or to discourage it. I will be talking about patient information leaflet, why they are important and the purpose for it.

What is Patient Information Leaflet?

A patient information leaflet can be defined as  a technical document included in every medicine package to offer written information about the medication and the medicinal ingredient(s) it contains.

Patient information leaflets (PILs) are provided by the manufacturer; they usually follow a standard template consisting of the same types of information for every medication. The main purpose for PIL is to inform patients about their medication regarding its administration, precautions and potential side effects/adverse effects.

Some of the information  may be a bit daunting; it is worthwhile having a discussion with your pharmacist so you can understand the important information you need to know. The PIL usually contains the following information:

Ingredients, uses, dosage and contraindications.

Possible side effects- very common, common, rare, very rare.

Interactions: I nteractions between your medication and other medicines or with food as well

Special warnings- For instance an advise that the medication  could make you feel drowsy, assuming you are a driver you would not want to take the medication when you are drowsy, as this could lead to road traffic accidents.

Do not be discouraged by the stated possible adverse effects listed in your PIL Evidence has shown that it’s not every one that will go through the adverse effects listed; most times the severity or possibility of the adverse effects listed occurring is graded in ratios and some are rare or very rare. Speak to your pharmacist when in doubt regarding the information in your PIL.

Your local pharmacist is also available to undertake a medicines use review and give you confidential advice regarding your medication and condition.

If you are taking a lot of medicines at the same time; for instance if you have a chronic disease condition like hypertension, diabetes, asthma etc. It is worthwhile  letting your pharmacist know about your condition before you buy any medicines over the counter as this may make your condition worse or mask some laboratory test results.

Conclusion: I would advise patients to always speak to the pharmacist regarding any medicines information that they may not understand to help relief their fears.

Your pharmacist is an expert in medicines information and would be happy to explain your PIL to you in simple terms. The PIL is there to provide useful information, please do not disregard it.






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