In a new study, researchers examined the effectiveness of two required warnings on over-the-counter medications, specifically their relative prominence and conspicuousness. "We wanted to quantify how well warning statements in over-the-counter drug packaging were working to convey information to consumers," explained lead researcher Laura Bix.
Medicine labels carry brand identification and various descriptions of contents. Federal regulations require packages that do not have a child resistant feature, for example, to conspicuously state that the product is not intended for homes with small children. Such packages are blamed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for a number of child poisonings every year.
Bix and her colleagues quantified the relative prominence and conspicuousness of five different label elements on the packages of pain-killers: the tamper-evident warning; the child-resistant warning; the brand name; the drug facts information; and statement of claims such as "extra strength." They also evaluated how well test subjects remembered information presented on the product packaging.
Using an eye tracking device, the researchers found that people spent the most time looking at the brand of the product and significantly less time looking at the tamper-evident and child-resistant warnings. Study participants also recalled the brand of the products at a higher rate. While two-thirds recalled one or more brands that they viewed during the course of the study, only 18 percent recalled warnings related to alcohol and 8.2 percent recalled that the product was not to be used in households with young children. Not one recalled warnings about tamper-evident features.
The researchers also found that the brand and product claims were significantly more legible than the warning statements. "Little specific guidance exists from the federal government regarding what it means to be 'prominent' or 'conspicuous,' yet, this term is used quite frequently in the regulations that dictate labelling for a variety of product," Bix said. "Our findings call into question whether these warnings are working."
MEDICA.de; Source: Michigan State University