Does Your Labeling Present Information in the Right Order

Patient Education Update

Vol 4. No. 5

by Dr. Dorothy L. Smith, President, Consumer Health Information Corporation. Visit our web site at

For 20 years, Consumer Health Information Corporation has specialized in helping product teams integrate patient education into their marketing strategies …. and enhance ROI through patient retention.

The consumer will be the final judge of all the marketing materials you produce for them. Once consumers and patients understand the information being given to them and believe that it is important to their own personal health, the health care system will start working as it should … and I can guarantee that a product’s ROI will increase.


No medication can be safe and effective until patients take it correctly. Too often we forget that the patient is the final judge in weighing the risks of the medicine against the benefits. For the patient to be able to make an informed decision, the order in which the information is presented to them is extremely critical.

I recently spoke at a Drug Information Association (DIA) meeting in Manhattan, where I joined a panel of FDA experts and representatives of a major advertising agency and public relations firm to explore the topic, “New Ways To Promote … Marketing of Pharmaceuticals: How To Be Aggressive and In Compliance.” I was asked to evaluate DTC ads and patient education materials from the consumer’s perspective.

In my remarks, I pointed out that millions of patients today are deciding not to take a medicine at all because the information they are receiving is not answering their questions in an order that would help them better understand the risks and the benefits.

Too often, companies present the risk information to the consumer ahead of the benefit information. This doesn’t make sense to me if you look at it from the viewpoint of a consumer.


The first thing a consumer wants to know is the potential benefits of the medication.

“What is this medicine used to treat and how will it help me?”

Only after they receive this information will they want to know about the risks.

“How safe is this medicine?”

Finally, after they decide that the benefits of taking the medicine are greater than the risks, they want to know how to take the medicine correctly and manage side effects.

How do I take this medicine?

How do I manage any side effects?

How do I store the medication?

If companies flip this order and list all the negative risks and warnings at the very beginning of their patient information materials, patients often become needlessly anxious. They may decide not to read any further, and may even decide not to take the medicine. This is the exact opposite of what health professionals and FDA want to achieve.

A similar parallel can be drawn to surgery. When a physician decides that a patient needs surgery because the benefits outweigh the risks, the surgeon does not begin the discussion by presenting the risks of dying while in surgery. This is important, of course – but at the proper time – for the patient to know. But if all surgeons began their initial explanations that way, very few people would ever opt for surgery even if they clearly need it.

Similarly, with a medication, patients want to know how the drug will help them, then have enough information to decide if the benefits outweigh the risks.

For more on consumer-friendly patient labeling, check here:


Developing messages for consumers and patients on medications requires a very specialized blending of medical information, regulatory requirements, marketing techniques, health literacy principles, patient compliance strategies, and behavior modification techniques… then translating everything into language the average consumer can understand … and reinforcing it with an effective “patient-friendly” design.

Even though a DTC campaign or a patient information program has met all the requirements of the company’s clinical, marketing, legal and regulatory teams as well as the FDA regulations, it can NEVER be maximally effective if the consumer does not understand the information.

Consumer Health Information Corporation’s experts in patient compliance and consumer behavior know how to develop “consumer-friendly” materials that motivate patients to take the medication correctly. Only then can the product fulfill its potential.

Check here to see why we’re unique:


Patients have forgotten 50% of the prescription instructions given to them by physicians by the time they arrive at the pharmacy.

For your product to be clinically effective and promote maximum ROI, you need a patient compliance program providing practical, understandable information that helps patients to manage side effects, complicated dosage schedules, and other issues that affect compliance.

For more on the value of an effective patient compliance program, check here:


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