Prescription painkillers and controlled substances: an appraisal of drug information provided by six US pharmacies
Preetinder S Gill
College of Technology, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI, USA
Background: Health literacy impacts health outcomes. Health literacy is a measure of a person's competence to find, access, contextualize, and understand the information needed to make health decisions. Low levels of health literacy have been associated with poor health status. Health literacy can be enhanced by improving the readability of health literature. Misuse and abuse of prescription medicines and controlled substances is rising. It could be argued that improving the readability of the drug-information documents associated with these medicines could serve to alleviate this situation in a small, albeit incremental, manner. This paper provides a readability assessment of 71 such documents.
Methods: The readability of drug-information documents associated with 12 commonly misused and abused painkiller medicines and controlled substances published by the top six US pharmacies was assessed. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Flesch Reading Ease, and Simple Measure of Gobbledygook (SMOG) indices were used to assess the readability of these drug-information documents. One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to compare the readability of the documents.
Results: The average Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level index score was found to be 11.16. The average Flesch Reading Ease index score was found to be 45.94. The average SMOG index score was found to be 13.60. Pharmacies C and E had the best average readability scores, whereas pharmacies A and B had the worst average readability scores.
Conclusion: Access, contents, and formatting of the documents were qualitatively analyzed to make recommendations to improve readability. Pharmacies C and E were used as benchmarks to identify the seven best practices. Good drug-information documents should have: (1) clear purpose, (2) limited scope, (3) summary/brief review, (4) well-placed graphics, (5) informative illustrations, (6) clean layout and lucid formatting relevant to the media, and (7) focus on the intended users.
Keywords: painkillers, analgesics, sedatives, stimulants, antispasmodics, readability, drug-information documents, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Flesch Reading Ease, SMOG
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