Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

When I got up this morning, I had to open a new packet of the anti-histamine tablets I take every day. Wrapped around them in the box was this tightly-folded information sheet, which I have unfolded. I didn’t bother to change the photo to portrait orientation, as I doubt anyone is actually going to read it. (But if you want to, you can enlarge the photos, and incline your head.)

The Front.

The Back.

Two pages of closely-typed words, containing charts, ingredients, side effects, contraindications, and warnings of all kinds, as well as a disclaimer. They are inserted into the tiny carton in such a way as to make it impossible to slide out the pills without revealing the sheet around them. This got me thinking of course. Every packet of tablets we have in the house comes with a similar sheet inside. Whether Paracetamol for headaches and fevers, or Ibuprofen for muscle and joint pains, whatever type of off-the-shelf drugs bought legally in a chemist’s, shop, or supermarket, they have to contain such a sheet, apparently.

Does anybody ever read them? If you have a headache or other pain, would you really be prepared to plough through all that small print before popping the pills into your mouth, in hope of relief? If you take something every day to combat an allergy, as I do, then do you need to read about all this stuff? So what if it tells you not to take all 30 tablets at once? I was never about to do that in the first place. And if I had been careless enough to let the box fall into the hands of anyone silly enough to do that, they probably wouldn’t be old enough to understand what it says anyway.

This is a monumental waste of time and expense, as well as paper and ink. No doubt driven by some obscure laws or regulations designed to absolve the seller, and the manufacturer, of any responsibility should you fail to observe any of these warnings and instructions. The packet of tablets cost less than three pounds, and will last me for a month. That’s good value, so I am not complaining about the price. But I do wonder how much of that includes the time and money spent preparing and adding those leaflets to the millions of packets of tablets sold every day.

So I am thinking aloud about why they just don’t type some simple text onto the boxes, and cut down on the images displayed on them. Then they could do away with the nonsense of these leaflets.

66 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

  1. Don’t shoot me but you wonder if it couldn’t be put online and then you could scan the box with your phone and ask any particular questions that are relevant to you i.e. can I take this with X? I know for some people that would not be useful but maybe in that case you could request the leaflet at the point of purchase. Probably wouldn’t cover off the liability though…

    I also never read the leaflets and I was interested to find out from my midwife while I was pregnant that everything basically says “do not take while pregnant or breastfeeding”, even the medication I was prescribed for gestational diabetes. This is not because the vast majority of medication is potentially harmful to pregnant or breastfeeding woman but because it is not ethical to test on them so they cannot be 100% sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with you, Pete. A complete waste of paper. I have actually plowed through these inserts in the past as my son has chronic asthma and some medications aggravate his condition. The information presented is so complex and also vague as to who could actually be expected to have such a reaction that it makes the whole exercise extremely useless for a reader who is not a doctor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Robbie. When I have ever actually read one of these, it suggests so many possible side-effects, it would seem that the tablets are far more dangerous than whatever you are taking them for.
      I am still convinced that they are little more than ‘disclaimers’.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It seems to me all would be better served if they summarized the most pertinent information and presented it in a format we could actually read. I usually don’t read the inserts as it’s too much information and I would need a magnifying glass too see it anyway. But I often check a reputable site online to get a list of common side effects for drugs that I (or most often my family members) might have to take.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The modern solution is indeed to check things online, Susanne, and most people surely do that. The people without computers or Internet access are probably too elderly to be able to ever read those leaflets anyway.
      Best wishes, Pete.


  4. I disagree completely! It’s a very small price to pay. Some of us take pills for which it is vital to know whether an off-the-shelf tablet will react badly. The pharmacist doesn’t always know. Just because somebody doesn’t bother to read the leaflet, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable to the next person. Much better for packaging manufacturers to produce a box that can be opened up with the writing on the inside. Yes, they could be more much more succinct because even with cataracts that have been done, the type needs a magnifying glass (and even then…!) but I’d rather have the information than risk something potentially hideous.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Interesting post, Pete. I see your point, but I agree with Sarah. Having worked more than 30 years in hospital also administrating medicine as my daily work, I think it’s vital to know what you take in and how it reacts with other medicine, food etc.
      What annoys me more, is the box around the toothpaste. As all the other wrappings. If toothpaste alone can generate 20,460 tonnes of waste, I wonder how much the plastic wrappings of fruit and vegetables add up to.
      Warm greetings to you and dear Ollie from Cley. xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, Dina. I know just what you are saying, but I honestly believe that 95% of people never actually read these sheets, and just throw them away. The toothpaste boxes are annoying, but serve the purpose of marketing the product by seeing it horizontally, and also make like easier for the shelf- stackers. πŸ™‚
        Love from Beetley, Pete and Ollie. X


  5. I always read the leaflet – though I may have taken the medication first. Sometimes a medication is contra-indicated if a patient is already taking some other drug and the GP doesn’t always check. Basically, though I suspect it’s so that you can’t sue the pharmaceutical company if you do get terrible side effects – they’ve warned you!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Having heard the ads in the US for medication I wonder why anyone would actually want to take it! The list of side effects (liver damage, kidney failure, heart failure etc etc) goes on for 5 minutes or so it seems!

          Liked by 3 people

            1. I dislike TV ads of any kind and recently the OH and I look at each other and realise neither of us understood what it was they were selling! We tend to stick to BBC channels and tape the others so we can skip the ads. Tape! Now that shows my age…

              Liked by 1 person

  6. If the pharmaceutical companies really want us to read their fine print, I suggest to also put a magnifying glass into the box with additional instructions in big letters how to use it. As to waste I agree with you 100%. It is everywhere, not just in a pill box.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Years ago when I was young and stupid I visited several places in Mexico. Before I left Mexico City I drank the tap water. At the airport I knew I was going to die. I spotted a small kiosk with β€˜Farmacia’. I tottered over and before I even got there the man was reaching under the counter watching me carefully. He handed me a blister pack with a small pill in it, nodding his head. No name on it, no warnings. I took it. Slept 4 hours. Woke fine.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sounds like he was familiar with ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’. πŸ™‚
      We we spend so much of our lives worrying about everything. If nothing bad happens to us, we may all live long enough to get to the age when we forget our own names. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m more of a check it on google if its a new tablet, slam in the scientific name and you have a good overview if what you need to know, and possible alternatives.
    But packaging on a whole is beyond a joke, I recently heard that the cost of bottle of shampoo (creams, lotions, etc) can be more than 50% of the value!
    Mad πŸ™‚
    And why do we need those silly foil blister packs when a glass bottle would do, especially if you are a regular user of a particular medication.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ever since basic medicines started to be sold outside of pharmacies, the whole ‘information’ thing is getting out of hand. I am given much stronger medicines at the doctor’s, and all it says on the bottle is ‘Take once a day, or as required’. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.


  9. Pete, if you saw the SPC (summary of product characteristics) that this leaflet derives from, you would be spinning! It is all to do with legislation, of course, but necessary. I agree that most people wouldn’t read it, but the point is, the information is there should it need to be referred to.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You make some salient (Is that a word?) points with your assessment of the inserts in the pharmaceutical packaging but I would like to point out an experience that might have some bearing:

        Awhile back I had a doctor of medicine (el-quacko at the VA [Veterans’ Administration] — prescribe some “Gabapentin” for one ailment I had or the other. (Can’t remember which, now.).

        I read the insert sheet and noticed that “Gabapentin” has been implicated in some cases of suicidal thought as well as a whole menu of other side effects and I flat out told the doctor, “I am not going to put the first pill of that prescription in my mouth” and I told him why. He found another effective medication and I took that one.

        I believe most of those sheets contain information about possible side effects that the ordinary non-medically-trained lay person would never think of or be aware of if not informed and I believe these sheets of information have helped a lot of people understand, notice, pay attention to and report what could be serious side effects to their doctors when, in ordinary circumstances, without the informational inserts, they would dismiss and get into some real trouble.

        I know a lot of the information on those things is probably intended to cover the drug manufacturer’s ass but I also believe that a person should be somewhat self-aware about their own bodies and their own medical conditions and that they should carefully study all the information they can find about what ails them, what treatments and alternative treatments are available and what the drugs they are putting into their bodies can do to them or for them.

        I am kind of glad the manufacturers and the government are concerned enough about the general welfare that these informational items are included with the medications. I remember the days (No long since past) when if a friend would ask me, “So what does that new medicine you are taking do for you?” and the only answer I could conjure up was, “I haven’t the foggiest idea.”

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Thanks for your thoughts, and that personal experience, John. You are right of course, but I really don’t have the patience to read all that guff, to be honest.
          ‘Salient’ is the perfect word in that context. πŸ™‚
          Best wishes, Pete.


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