Following 18 months of discussions among the medical establishment, the British public are to finally start being told about the side effects of the drugs they are taking.
From next December, drugs are to include patient packs which will explain the use of the drug and its side effects.
But it will be more evolution than revolution. It will take three years before all drugs are included. The first products to come under the new scheme will be drugs for peptic ulcers, viruses, and cholesterol-reducing, plus steroids.
Both branded and generic drugs will be included and, by 1998, more than 40 different categories covering about 11,500 medicines should have patient packs.
But in case patients seem less enthusiastic to take a drug once they know what it might do to them, doctors will be armed with extra
"GPs need to know that there will be a great deal of back-up information to help them explain the situation to patients when the time comes to reduce resistance," commented Dr Richard Tiner, a member of the General Medical Services Committee's prescribing subcommittee.
He felt that the patient packs, while expensive, were a good way of encouraging "compliance among patients". What could he possibly mean? (BMJ, May 27, 1995).