Optimization of Over the Counter Medication Labels for Older Adults

By: Alyssa Harben   Mark Becker   Lanqing Liu   Laura Bix   Deborah Kashy  

Despite the advantages provided by over the counter (OTC) medications, they carry risks, particularly for older consumers who are more susceptible to adverse drug reactions (ADRs). OTC labels are especially important for avoiding ADRs because they are often the sole source of warnings provided to consumers. Recognizing these facts, numerous countries mandate the content and formatting of OTC labels. In the US, this takes the form of the Drug Facts Label (DFL). Despite the importance of OTC labels, limited research has attempted to optimize labels, particularly for older consumers. Thus, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association and the Gerontological Society of America have identified research into OTC labels optimized for use by older consumers as a critical research need. We adopted a Front of Pack (FOP) labeling strategy, demonstrated as effective for food labels, for use with OTCs. The FOP label places the most critical warning information on a FOP label. Using a change detection methodology, we objectively evaluated how the presence of FOPs and use of highlighting affected older adults’ attention to critical information. A total of four treatments were tested (FOP and no FOP, with and without highlighting). Results from 57 participants (average age 71.1 SD 6.93, range 52-100) indicate that moving critical information from the DFL to the FOP and highlighting that information increases attention to this information. Results have implication for policy and warrant further research into labeling strategies that promote better use of warnings, particularly for older populations that are at higher risk for ADRs.

Over-the-Counter Medication, Decision-making, Health Literacy, Labeling, Policy, Education and Cognition
Public Policy and Public Perspectives on Aging
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Alyssa Harben

PhD Candidate, School of Packaging, Michigan State University, United States
United States

Mark Becker

Associate Professor, Michigan State University

Lanqing Liu

PhD Student, Michigan State University

Laura Bix

Assistant Dean and Professor, Michigan State University

Deborah Kashy

Professor, Michigan State University