Testing of Candidate Icons to Identify Acetaminophen-Containing Medicines

Pharmacy (Basel). 2016 Jan 27;4(1):10. doi: 10.3390/pharmacy4010010.


Adding icons on labels of acetaminophen-containing medicines could help users identify the active ingredient and avoid concomitant use of multiple medicines containing acetaminophen. We evaluated five icons for communication effectiveness. Adults (n = 300) were randomized to view a prescription container label or over-the-counter labels with either one or two icons. Participants saw two icon candidates, and reported their interpretation; experts judged whether these reflected critical confusions that might cause harm. Participants rated how effectively each icon communicated key messages. Icons based on abbreviations of "acetaminophen" ("Ac", "Ace", "Acm") were rated less confusing and more effective in communicating the active ingredient than icons based on "APAP" or an abstract symbol. Icons did not result in critical confusion when seen on a readable medicine label. Icon implementation on prescription labels was more effective at communicating the warning against concomitant use than implementation on over-the-counter (OTC) labels. Adding an icon to a second location on OTC labels did not consistently enhance this communication, but reduced rated effectiveness of acetaminophen ingredient communication among participants with limited health literacy. The abbreviation-based icons seem most suitable for labeling acetaminophen-containing medications to enable users to identify acetaminophen-containing products.

Keywords: acetaminophen; icon; label.