America's health regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has been trying for 20 years to get doctors to share more information about drugs with their patients. Now, with just five years to go to meet the deadlines, the FDA has issued an ul
By the time the deadline is reached, the FDA is hoping that health professionals will be giving out a great deal more information on prescription drugs to at least three-quarters of all patients.
But the reticence of the health carers indicates that their vision of the future of healthcare doesn't sit too well with that of the FDA.
Because each person metabolizes a drug slightly differently, it is vital that they have more information so that he can take responsibility for his own health care.
The warning was issued by FDA commissioner David Kessler at the National Conference on Prescription Medicine Information and Education, an organization set up 13 years ago to educate people about prescription drugs.
Dr Kessler said that if the target is not met, the FDA would step in and make a patient education programme mandatory. The FDA's first efforts were made in the early 1970s when they ordered the use of patient package inserts for 10 classes of prescription drugs. Despite early interest from the drug companies, their enthusiasm soon foundered. By 1990, only a quarter of all patients were getting any more information on a drug than what appeared on the label.
Several other initiatives followed, but still the medical profession has been slow to respond.
The ultimatum, the FDA hopes, will finally see an end to the days when a doctor would just say:" Take this three times a day" and leave the rest to chance.