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It is essential to explain the risk-benefit ratio of pharmaceuticals

Survey shows that easy-to-understand drug information has a big influence
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(Vienna, 18 August 2016) Drug side effects are a very important or important concern for 83% of the Austrian population, according to a representative survey conducted by the Gallup Institute and published today. The survey of 500 people aged 18 and over shows that, in general, concerns about side-effects increase with age and level of education. Half of those questioned said that they did not discuss side-effects with the doctor or the pharmacist when they were last prescribed pharmaceutical drugs. However, where these were discussed, the information given was understandable to nearly everybody (94%).

Risks and benefits important to all respondents
The vast majority of respondents (84%) had read the patient information leaflet when they were last prescribed a pharmaceutical drug: women more than men and older people more than younger people. In addition to consulting their doctor, pharmacist and the patient information leaflet, around one third also sought other sources of information, almost exclusively on the Internet but, in a few cases, also family or friends. Hence the results show that a clear explanation of the risks and benefits of drugs is extremely important.

In many cases the fear of side effects prevents people from taking medication
However, a very high percentage of those questioned (more than 40%) said that they had, on at least one occasion,  not taken a prescribed drug because they were afraid of the side-effects. In this respect, women (49%) are significantly more cautious than men (35%). Similarly, those aged over 50 are more sceptical than younger people. Moreover, nearly a quarter of respondents had stopped taking a drug because of a negative report in the media.

Markus Zeitlinger, doctor of internal medicine and clinical pharmacologist at MedUni Vienna, explains: "During the course of its development, every drug is carefully tested in accordance with legally established guidelines. Before the drug comes onto the market, the relevant authorities evaluate the effect of a drug and assess whether the associated benefits outweigh the risks. It can be very difficult for a patient to navigate their way through the list of potential side-effects on the patient information leaflet. For this reason, the decision to pursue a certain treatment should be taken jointly by the doctor and patient, after discussing the action and main side-effects of the drug."

What should patients tell their doctor about?
-    Current health problems and medical history, including any operations
-    Treatments and medications that he/she is currently using plus vaccination status (vaccination certificate)
-    Other doctors who are treating them
-    Medical conditions in the family
-    Allergies and intolerances to drugs and foodstuffs (penicillin, lactose, etc.)
-    Work and lifestyle habits including shift-work, diet, exercise; risk factors such as nicotine or alcohol consumption
-    Other relevant information, such as having a needle phobia, for example

What should patients ask their doctor?
-    What is wrong with me?
-    What are the treatment options?
-    How will the treatment benefit me and what are the risks associated with it?
-    Why am I being prescribed this medication?
-    How can this medication help me?
-    How must I take this medication?
-    What are the potential side-effects?
-    What might happen if I do not start this course of treatment or discontinue it prematurely?
-    Can you recommend any other sources of information or patient groups?

About the survey
The aim of the online survey of 500 respondents, conducted by Gallup in April 2016 on behalf of Bayer Austria, was to find out about patient behaviour regarding the risks and benefits of pharmaceutical drugs. The survey population was made up of representatively selected, Internet-active people aged 18 and over.