In testimony, NACDS hails federal effort to simplify patient medication information

ROCKVILLE, Md. Federal efforts to simplify and standardize the information that patients receive with their prescription medications are laudable and should continue, the chain pharmacy lobby told Obama administration health officials Monday.

That message to the Food and Drug Administration came from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, which has pushed for simpler patient package inserts, and on a more basic level, a single standard for conveying patient medication information. In a presentation to an FDA public hearing, NACDS VP government affairs and pharmacy adviser Kevin Nicholson said his group is “very pleased” that the agency appears to be moving toward a single information document with standardized format and content. He urged federal health officials to “continue to move toward this laudable goal with all reasonable haste.”

Under current FDA rules, Nicholson testified, “Patients receive several different types of information, developed by different sources that may be duplicative, incomplete, or difficult to read or understand.” The agency should work with NACDS, other pharmacy groups, manufacturers and patients themselves, he asserted, to come up with a “one document solution” to the knotty issue of PMI.

“Patients want a useful document, designed and written for them, that recognizes their information needs, that focuses concisely on critical information and that provides them with clear instructions on where to go for further advice and instruction,” Nicholson told the FDA panel. What’s more, he said, “The provision of multiple documents, containing redundant or even conflicting information, creates logistical and financial burdens for pharmacies that compromise effective patient counseling. It would be far more convenient, efficient and ultimately more effective for pharmacists to counsel patients by providing a single document that could easily be understood and facilitate a discussion concerning proper use of medication.”

That said, the NACDS executive noted, “our first recommendation is for FDA approval of all PMI. However, considering that FDA approval may not be feasible, we urge the agency to develop pilot programs to test various modes of ensuring standard content and format, including using simplified and modified PPIs as PMI. Any pilot program should also test different modes of patient access and delivery to the patient at the pharmacy, at the point of prescribing and via the Internet and/or electronic health records,” Nicholson concluded. “The key to success for PMI will be for continued collaboration among the agency, manufacturers, pharmacies, prescribers and consumer groups.”

In mid-2008, NACDS and seven other pharmacy and consumer organizations submitted a citizen petition to urge the FDA to move to “a concise, plain-language document for patients that would consolidate and replace the multiple written communications pharmacies currently are required to distribute to patients.” Adopting a standard, easier-to-understand medication information format, Nicholson told the agency, would help boost patient adherence, improve health outcomes and cut needless healthcare expenditures.

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