Health Canada to Require Plain Language on Drug Labels

Why clearer drug labels could prevent hospital visits

By: Ocean-Leigh Peters, Staff Writer

Photo by Jake Wright, courtesy of the Mental Health Commission of Canada

Photo by Jake Wright, courtesy of the Mental Health Commission of Canada

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced on Friday that Health Canada will require plain language in place of the medical jargon on prescription and non-prescription drugs. Standardizing the format of labels and mandatory mock-ups from manufacturers will also be part of Health Canada’s approach for making drug labels more user-friendly. Health Canada will also require drug manufacturers to prove that drug names will not closely parallel other authorized products in order to avoid confusion.

Prescription drug labels are complex documents that can cause more pain and headaches than the drugs themselves can cure. According to Health Canada, up to one in nine emergency room visits relate to adverse reactions to drugs. [pullquote]Easy-to-read drug labels could prevent many hospital visits.[/pullquote]

Current problems with drug labels include similar drug names causing confusion, abbreviations used without explanation, confusing symbols, illegible type, and non-standardized terminology.

Health Canada will introduce its changes gradually over the course of the summer and after publishing its new method in the Canada Gazette, Part II.

Prescription and non-prescription drug users should be in the know when it comes to the drugs they put into their bodies. If the details are inadequate on your drug labels, look for the complete information from the drug company’s official site.

Ocean-Leigh is an aspiring journalist and a resent UNBSJ graduate who will be attending UKC in Halifax to study journalism in the fall. She’s passionate about writing and got her start writing a sports column for her university paper. You can follow her on Twitter @ocean_leigh


Mental Health Commission of Canada

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