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How much attention do people pay to the risk information for prescription drugs?

If you said “not much,” you would be correct.

A recent study found that, while about 80 percent of those viewing risk information for a fictitious allergy drug claimed to have read at least half or more of the warnings, an eye-tracking tool found they actually read little to none of the cautionary material on a product website. Of 29 people, eight did not read any of the side effect disclosure, some of which was supposedly unique to this medicine.

In general, the participants — all of whom had been diagnosed with a seasonal allergy and reported suffering symptoms during the past year — had a very low recall level. Of 12 side effects mentioned, on average, the participants correctly recalled just one. And nearly 45 percent did not recall any risks, while 17 percent recalled just one risk (there is more information starting on slide 15 and running through slide 31).

The upshot is that “mere exposure to risks does not automatically indicate risk readership — no matter how fairly and well-balanced or clearly and conspicuously those risks may be presented,” according to the authors of the analysis, which was published online in the Journal of Risk Research in August, but was more widely publicized this week.

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