Influence of Warning Labels on Medicines and Physicians' Orders on Patient Behavior
Yehuda Limony, Pesah Shwarzman
Child Health Center of Kupat Holim Klalit, Kiryat Gat and Dept. of Family Medicine, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheba
Compliance of 40 mothers with a warning label, "for external use," on a medicine package was checked in a survey in a primary care clinic for children. We also checked parents' attitudes to giving a medicine to their child when instructions given by the physician or by a friend contradicted the printed warning on the label. All mothers who were told that the medicine was recommended by their physicians accepted the recommendation without hesitation. Another group included 20 mothers who were told that the medicine was recommended by a friend. 9 of 20 mothers in this group refused to use the medicine. Talking with the nurse about the potential risk of medicine in general, some mothers, after second thought, refused to give the medicine to their child. At the end, 65% of recommendations made by a friend were rejected by mothers as compared to only 15% of the physicians' recommendations.
35 of 40 mothers (87%) understood the meaning of the warning label, but only 13 (32%) had noticed it at all. We conclude that patients may accept their physicians' recommendation to use a medicine despite a contradictory warning label much more readily than when it was recommended by a friend. Therefore, any intervention program intended to promote a more cautious use of medicines should include not only the explanations of the various warning labels but should also promote a change in the patient's behavior to a more active search for warning labels.