U.K. Medicine Information May Adversely Affect Patients' Risk Perception

A guideline designed to improve patients' understanding of the degree of risk from medicines, developed by the European Union, may in fact lead to overstating one’s risk, U.K. researchers found. The guideline recommends the use of risk descriptions such as “very common” to “very rare.” People who relied on these qualitative descriptions greatly overstated their probability of experiencing a side effect, compared to people who read a numerical description of possible risk. One co-author of this study, discussed in The Lancet for 9 March 2002 as a “research letter,” is NCPIE member D.K. Theo Raynor of the University of Leeds.