Challenges to read and understand information on pharmaceutical packages

Elina Rusko, K. Van Der Waarde, Raija-Liisa Heiniö

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference article in proceedingsScientificpeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    In Europe, package leaflets and the outside of medicine packaging provide information about medicines for patients and healthcare providers. Patients, mainly elderly men and women, often take several different medicines on a daily basis. Handling pharmaceutical packaging and leaflets is an unavoidable necessity for them. To read and understand information on pharmaceutical packages requires a combination of physical ability (eyesight and dexterity) and intelligence (relating information to a personal situation). Healthcare providers face similar challenges in their everyday work. Preventing mistakes while administering medication is a subject that concerns healthcare providers all over the world. Unfortunately, accidents with medicines occur because the visual design of information is not seem sufficient to enable people to act appropriately. In order to evaluate the visual design of information, it seems essential to differentiate between findability, readability, understanding and application. Ignoring these different actions leads to practical problems and increases the risks related to the handling and use of medicines. Currently different types of readability tests are used to evaluate the readability. However, none of them is applicable as such for evaluating findability, readability, understanding and application. Consensus about the test methods and test criteria still needs to be reached, and their validity and reliability are continuously discussed. In this paper, some of the main factors influencing the practical use of information on pharmaceutical packages are described. The paper examines current practice and the related European guidelines on readability and testing methods. It shows that these guidelines only cover a small area of relevant factors, and they do not really help practice to develop suitable designs of packaging and package leaflets. Thus, it seems necessary to develop specific guidelines for the designing and testing of medicine packaging. The paper is part of a project on developing tools to produce user-friendly pharmaceutical packages that are easy to open with easy to read and appropriate instructions. These two are critical factors for the safe use of pharmaceuticals. The project includes cooperation between VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Avans University in the Netherlands.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publication18th IAPRI World Packaging Conference
    EditorsJay Singh
    PublisherDEStech Publications Inc.
    ISBN (Print)978-1-605-95084-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2012
    MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
    Event18th IAPRI World Packaging Conference - San Luis Obispo, United States
    Duration: 17 Jun 201221 Jun 2012


    Conference18th IAPRI World Packaging Conference
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    CitySan Luis Obispo


    • Readability
    • pharmacetical packaging
    • package leaflet
    • readability test
    • packaging graphics


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