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The United States Pharmacopeia has come up with several different standards to apply to new labels to help keep patients from mistakes from incorrectly taking medication.

The new labels emphasize instructions and important patient information first, simplify language, increase font size while spacing out the information on the label to allow patients to clearly read the information. For generic medications, both the brand name and generic name of the medication are clearly labeled to make sure you are taking the right prescription.
“With the best intentions in the world on everybody’s part, we are not communicating well enough. The patient is trying to understand their medicines and take them correctly,” explained Joanne Schwartzberg, a representative of USP. “The damage done by misunderstanding is phenomenal. So anything we can do to improve the health of Americans we need to work on.”

Wisconsin Health Literacy is working with three pharmacies–UW Health, Hayat Pharmacy and Hometown Pharmacies with 52 sites in Wisconsin–to implement the changes. When all sites implement the new labels, more than 1.8 million prescriptions a year will be affected.

“Why not increase the possibility that they will be able to read that medication…all the information is there, but let’s change the real estate of that information so the most important is on top,” said pharmacist-partner Matt Mabie of Hometown Pharmacies in Cottage Grove.

Participating pharmacies started the changes three months ago. More changes are still in the works. Wisconsin Health Literacy plans to implement changes to help with those who are visually impaired and for patients whose first language is not English.

Although the standards are not required, Wisconsin Health Literacy hopes that all pharmacies in the state will decide to implement the changes.