Written information about medicines improves consumers’ knowledge

Clinical question: 
How effective is written medical information (WMI) about individual medicines on relevant patient outcomes (knowledge, attitudes, behaviours and health outcomes)?
Bottom line: 
There is some evidence that WMI can improve knowledge. There were no trials that evaluated the effects of internet-based medicines information, or the effects of WMI on health outcomes. Overall, there was no strong evidence that providing WMI on its own will improve adherence to medicine instructions. None of the studies showed that written information was harmful.
The studies were generally of a poor quality. The trials presented the written information for patients in different ways, and most did not design the leaflets in a way that made them easy to read. In many cases, trials were not clearly reported, so it is not known if they were carried out correctly. Finally, due to the heterogeneity of the trials, it was not possible to carry out a meta-analysis.
Medicines are the most common intervention in most health services. People taking medicines need good quality information: to enable them to take and use the medicines effectively, to understand the potential harms and benefits, and to allow them to make an informed decision about taking them. Written medical information, such as a leaflet or provided via the internet, is an intervention that may meet these purposes.
Review CD#: 
September, 2009
Authored by: 
Brian R McAvoy