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Report calls for action to prevent confusion over medicines

The new report highlights the significant difficulties patients and some healthcare professionals face in using evidence from research to judge the benefits and harms of medicines, and calls for concerted action to improve the information patients receive.

The AMS report was instigated following public debate around the benefits and harms of treatments such as statins, hormone replacement therapy and Tamiflu. It calls for a range of actions including significant improvements to patient information leaflets, better use of medical appointments and a bigger role for NHS Choices as the ‘go to’ source of trusted information online for patients and carers, as well as healthcare professionals.

Report Chair, Professor Sir John Tooke, said:

“It is startling to hear that only about a third of the public trust medical research, and that patients are struggling to make sense of the information they receive from their doctor, the TV, the internet and their friends and family about medicines.”

“With our ageing population and ever more sophisticated treatments being made available, we need to act now to give patients clearer and more useful information about the medicines they take.”

Professor Sir John Tooke, concluded: “We all need to make decisions about medicines at some time in our lives, and this should involve the opportunity to consider which treatment will meet our individual needs. While many factors will affect our decision making, we would like robust evidence from scientific research to play a more important role. For this to happen, information from research will need to be more accessible and understandable, as well as reliable and trustworthy in the future.”

“We will only succeed in making the most of the tremendous strides in medical science if we are also able to share knowledge effectively with patients to allow them to make the best decisions about medicines.” 

Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive at the MRC, which contributed to the report, said: “The MRC very much welcomes this extremely thorough report. The MRC funds discovery research and clinical studies that may lead to new or improved treatments. It is important that the public and regulators understand the nature of such discovery and the requirements and processes that may then lead to cost-effective treatments. This often involves collaborating with industry. Increasingly, we are finding out more about how to target treatments better to individual patients, and we therefore support the Academy’s recommendations to involve patients more in research including setting research priorities, especially for clinical research. The MRC will consider the report in detail. We are already following many of the recommendations, and we will continue to work with others to improve trust in medical research; at the heart of this is scientific rigour and good communication”.

Professor Dame Sally Davies DBE FRS FMedSci, Chief Medical Officer for England, said:“Medical science is progressing at an unprecedented rate, opening up opportunities not only to cure certain diseases, but potentially to prevent them from ever occurring. Yet it is vital that we find the best possible ways to use and communicate scientific evidence, so that progress may be translated into benefits for patients.”

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