A new report has highlighted significant difficulties patients and some healthcare professionals face in using evidence from research to judge the benefits and harms of medicines.
The report by the Academy of Medical Sciences was initiated following public debate around the benefits and harms of treatments such as statins, hormone replacement therapy , and Tamiflu.
The report highlights the role of healthcare professionals in communicating evidence, risk and uncertainty around medicines, and in discussing these in the context of the patient’s understanding of their illness and treatment. To this end, it says there should be better use of medical appointment times to help patients make better informed decisions about whether to take a medicine or not.
It also raises issues around patient information leaflets which, it says, were described by the public as being ‘impenetrable’ and ‘unreadable’. The report has called for substantial changes to the information contained in such leaflets at European and national levels. In particular, it recommends that a balanced appraisal of the medicine’s potential benefits and risks is made accessible in these documents, in a similar way to the Drug Facts Box initiative in the US.