There has been a marked decline in the number of people reading product information for medicines, it has emerged.
About 26% of adults never read product information before taking an over-the-counter medicine and one in five (21%) never read information about a prescribed drug.
A national survey from the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) shows 38% of people always read the product information for over-the-counter medicine, compared to 67% in 2010. Just under half (49%) always read the product information for a prescribed drug, compared to 73% in 2010.
The research also shows 43% use the internet to get information on general health, while 24% use it to access information on medicines.
The internet is also playing a significantly bigger role in influencing the choice of medicine or treatment — 62% said they used it frequently or sometimes, compared to 42% in 2013.
More than 70,000 people have purchased medicines online, but the percentage, at just 2%, has remained the same since 2010, although it rises to 14% for those under 34 years.
While 8% — about 284,000 adults — would consider buying medicines online in the future, this compares with 6% in 2013 and 9% in 2010. The authenticity or safety of drugs is a big concern for two out of three people.
The research shows almost one-third (31%) of people are taking medications for a long time and more women (33%) than men (29%) are on long-term treatments, with most typically taking at least two medicines.
The authority’s CEO, Lorraine Nolan, said the HPRA had a role in advising people to seek access to the most accurate and reliable information on medicines so that their effectiveness and safety was maximised.
“Although large numbers are reading the product information on the label and leaflet and tell us they find it generally easy to understand, the HPRA is concerned, overall, the trend in the numbers accessing this information is downwards,” said Ms Nolan.
There has been a substantial growth in confidence and understanding of generic medicines in recent years with two out of three people (60%) saying they are familiar with these products. In 2013 just under half (48%) said they were, up from 36% in 2010.
Also, 44% have taken a generic medicine, up from 33% in 2013, with usage highest among women and those aged 35 to 64. Nine out of 10 (88%) had a positive experience, a small decrease since 2013 when 92% said they did.
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