Objective: Evaluate the distribution and quality of patient medication leaflets provided in U.S. pharmacies.
Setting: United States.
Participants: 384 randomly selected community pharmacies in 44 states.
Interventions: Professional shoppers (acting as patients) presented four new prescriptions to study pharmacies.
Main outcome measures: Medication leaflets obtained by shoppers were evaluated by expert and consumer raters using criteria specified in federal law mandating distribution of useful written information to 95% of individuals receiving new prescriptions by 2006.
Results: Leaflets were provided by pharmacies with 89% of 1,536 prescriptions presented by professional shoppers posing as patients. Leaflet quality varied: 95% of leaflets received high ratings on accuracy, but only 19% received high ratings on the specificity of directions. Fewer than 10% of all leaflets met quality criteria regarding contraindications, precautions, and how to avoid harm. One fourth of all leaflets had poor print size, according to the shoppers.
Conclusion: Additional efforts are needed to meet federally mandated information distribution and quality goals by 2006.