The federal government should develop mechanisms for improving pharmacy leaflets and the quality of Internet information for consumers.

Second, there is a need for additional resources beyond pharmacy leaflets and Internet information that can be provided on a national scale. In particular, a national drug information telephone helpline and community-based health resource centers should be developed to promote consumer education. Further, communication networks already in place, such as those associated with the public health infrastructure (e.g., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Marketing) and consumer networks should be used for broad dissemination of national medication safety initiatives.

Recommendation 2: Government agencies (i.e., the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality [AHRQ], the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services [CMS], the Food and Drug Administration [FDA], and the National Library of Medicine [NLM]) should enhance the resource base for consumer-oriented drug information and medication self-management support. Such efforts require standardization of pharmacy medication information leaflets, improvement of online medication resources, establishment of a national drug information telephone helpline, the development of personal health records, and the formulation of a national plan for the dissemination of medication safety information.

  • Pharmacy medication information leaflets should be standardized to a format designed for readability, comprehensibility, and usefulness to consumers. The leaflets should be made available to consumers in a manner that accommodates their individual needs, such as those associated with variations in literacy, language, age, and visual acuity.

  • The NLM should be designated as the chief agency responsible for Internet health information resources for consumers. Drug information should be provided through a consumers’ version of the DailyMed program, with links to the NLM’s Medline Plus program for general health and additional drug information.

  • CMS, the FDA, and the NLM, working together, should undertake a full evaluation of various methods for building and funding a national network of drug information helplines.

  • CMS, the FDA, and the NLM should collaborate to confirm a minimum dataset for personal health records and develop requirements for vendor self-certification of compliance. Vendors should take the initiative to improve the use and functionality of personal health records by incorporating basic tools to support consumers’ medication self-management.

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