Pharmaceutical pictograms: a model for development and testing for comprehension and utility

Res Social Adm Pharm. Sep-Oct 2013;9(5):609-20. doi: 10.1016/j.sapharm.2013.04.003. Epub 2013 May 14.


Background: With concerns about the medication literacy skills of patients comes the need to develop various types of information materials that will enhance understanding and drug use.

Objectives: To review pictogram development projects and to propose a model for pharmaceutical pictogram development and testing for comprehension and use.

Methods: Previous efforts in developing specific types of pictograms in engineering and safety as well as in health care and pharmacy are collected and summarized in terms of level of comprehension and recall. The impact of pictogram-enhanced medication information materials on knowledge acquisition, information retention, and adherence is assessed.

Results and conclusions: Pictograms are a key component in re-designing medication information to improve comprehension, recall, and adherence. Many types of pictograms still produce low levels of comprehension and the impact of pictograms on medication knowledge is inconsistent. Prior training through patient counseling on the intended meaning and use of pictograms greatly increases their effectiveness. A model for the development and testing of pictograms and pictogram sequences for comprehension and use in medication information is presented and discussed.

Keywords: Medication literacy; Pictograms; Visual aids.

MeSH terms

  • Comprehension
  • Drug Labeling*
  • Health Communication
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations