Providing consumer information involves different modes of communication which can fill different roles, with labeling best suited to provide the necessary information for safe and effective use. Nonprescription drug labeling (labels and/or leaflets) designed for consumers is a fundamental requirement in responsible self-medication. It is often said that, in addition to the physical product itself, useable labeling is an equally important product provided by the industry. The information consumers need to use nonprescription medicines correctly and without professional supervision must be on the label or in the leaflet which comes with the product. WSMI and its member associations urge consumers to read the outer package label before purchasing, and to read all the labeling with nonprescription medicines before the first use and before each period of use after that. The latter is particularly important since labeling can change over time.
WSMI supports information standards or requirements for labeling needed for safe use – either on product labels themselves or in package leaflets.
A number of WSMI member associations have worked with their regulatory authorities to improve nonprescription medicine labeling. These efforts include increasing attention to technical factors which increase readability, determining the precise information that is presented, formatting of the information, and paying careful attention to consumer understandability. Many WSMI member associations have gone one step further through voluntary programs for labeling. All of these efforts are aimed at making nonprescription medicine labeling even more useable and consumer-friendly.
Other modes of communication – consulting with health professionals, books or articles, brochures, or newer electronic media – can also play a role in health education on medicines for consumers. As we look toward self-medication’s future, including its role in disease management or for chronic conditions, we can expect the importance of additional communication modes to increase. For example, nonprescription nicotine replacement therapy products are already accompanied by audiotapes and toll-free telephone numbers to call for advice and support to those who are trying to quit smoking.