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Ottawa orders plain-language labelling for drugs

In an attempt to reduce the amount of "preventable harm" within the health care system, the federal government has ordered drug manufacturers to make their product labelling and safety information easier for Canadians to understand.

"[We] will be making plain language a requirement on drug packages in order to help prevent adverse drug reactions and medication errors," then Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said when she announced the changes in June.

Aglukkaq said the "plain language initiative" is an attempt to make the use of prescription drugs more beneficial. "Medications offer significant benefits but they can also carry some risks," she said.

Health Canada says the information accompanying prescription drugs contains crucial information, but because it can be "confusing to follow," unnecessary harm may result (see Plain language labelling).

President Anna Reid said the CMA is pleased with the change. "We believe plain-language drug product labelling will not only improve Canadians' knowledge about the medications they take but also improve patients' safety and adherence to drug therapy," she said.

The labelling changes will be rolled out for both prescription and non-prescription drugs, with prescription products affected first. Health Canada and drug manufacturers are currently in the midst of a 75-day consultation on the upcoming regulatory changes.

Forward any comments about this article to: cmanews@cma.ca.