July 16, 2014

Need a Magnifier to Read Your Prescription Labels?

Do you have problems reading the label on prescription vials or bottles? I admit I have a serious problem reading parts of the label. The prescription number, the dose, the number of refills, and the expiration date require using a magnifier. The instructions are easier to read and I seldom have problems with reading that. These are for prescriptions from my local pharmacy.

The prescriptions received from the VA pharmacy come with a printed sheet or sheets that are easy to read. The bottles or vials are readable for about three weeks and then the printing fades to totally unreadable. This fading is because of the oils from my hands and it does not take long to become unreadable. If I was not aware of the shape of the pill and color, it might be easy to mistake what the medication was and over use. Keeping the sheet with each bottle is not acceptable because it is too large to fit under the bottle and the bottles and vials constantly tip over and fall on the floor from the shelf.

That is why I have resorted to my own labels that are easier to read and larger in print size (font). Then I tape one side to the vial or bottle and leave the other side untaped.
Not the nicest looking, but at least I am able to read them. The paper is light enough and the vials seldom tip over until they are near empty and I have a set up to prevent this.

Now a study in Canada points to some of the problems I am having. The study published in the Canadian Pharmacists Journal, found that labels on prescription medications dispensed by pharmacies do not consistently follow recommended guidelines for legibility.

The study author, Dr. Sue Leat from Waterloo's School of Optometry and Vision Science, in Ontario, Canada, says there are few guidelines and no regulations for the print on prescription labels. She continues that what regulations there are specify only the content of prescription labels, not how they appear.

Researchers asked 45 pharmacies in three Canadian cities to print a sample prescription label with the patient's name, drug name, and use instructions. The sample label was then compared to label printing recommendations. The results showed that 44 percent of the labels met the minimum font size of 12 points. Half of
the labels were printed left justified and few of the recommendations for best use of spacing used.

All labels used capital lettering, which is difficult for patients with eye problems to read, instead of the recommended lettering. Over 90 percent of labels followed guidelines for font style, black print, and non-glossy paper. The research shows that font size and other factors can have an effect on readability of prescription labels.

The researchers plan to develop a prototype pharmaceutical label and test its readability and accuracy and use a questionnaire to survey pharmacists and patients (with and without visual impairments).

At least with my own labels, I can just make sure that the prescription number is updated and any other changes.

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