Tuesday, April 26, 2011


In Why We Make Mistakes , I have a little fun pointing out how often people fail to follow the instructions that come with a variety of products, from nail guns to car seats. But if you want an even scarier example, check out today's story in The Wall Street Journal on drug labeling.

Drug labels are notoriously hard to read -- and often confusing for those who do read them. Not surprisingly, as many as three in four Americans say they don't take prescription medicine as directed. And in recent studies, more than half of adults misunderstood one or more common prescription warnings and precautions.

Often, this leads to a trip to the hospital. Nearly 1.9 million people were treated in hospitals for illnesses and injuries from taking medicines -- a 52% increase from 2004 to 2008.

One cure for confusion, of course, is simplicity. And one study shows -- what a shock! -- that patients better understood simple, explicit language. For example, "use only on your skin" is better understood than "for external use only."

So before you grab that bottle of pills, take some time to check the label.

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