Informing people about the risks and benefits of medicines: implications for the safe and effective use of medicinal products

Curr Drug Saf. 2006 Jan;1(1):121-6. doi: 10.2174/157488606775252638.


Providing effective information about drug risks and benefits has become a major challenge for health professionals, as many people are ill equipped to understand, retain and use the information effectively. This paper reviews the growing evidence that people's understanding (and health behaviour) is not only affected by the content of medicines information, but also by the particular way in which it is presented. Such presentational factors include whether information is presented verbally or numerically, framed positively or negatively, whether risk reductions are described in relative or absolute terms (and baseline information included), and whether information is personalized or tailored in any way. It also looks at how understanding is affected by the order in which information is presented, and the way in which it is processed. The paper concludes by making a number of recommendations for providers of medicines information, about both the content and presentation of such information, that should enhance safe and effective medicines usage.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Humans
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage*
  • Probability
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk*


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations