Patients' understanding of prescription drug label instructions in developing nations: The case of Saudi Arabia

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Processing health-related data is challenging for patients. It is believed that low education level and low socioeconomic status are associated with prescription label misunderstanding, which may lead to poor clinical outcomes, increased adverse drug reactions, and increased health costs.


The aim of this study was to gain a better insight into the current understanding of prescription drug labels, and to determine the main factors affecting patients' understanding of prescription labels.


A total of 511 adult participants in 4 major hospitals in Riyadh were interviewed. The primary outcome was patient understanding of prescription labels for 5 commonly prescribed medications. Prescription label understanding was assessed using a prespecified structured interview protocol. Participants with less than a 6th-grade education level and monthly income less than 10,000 Saudi Riyal were considered to have a low education level and low monthly income, respectively. Logistic regression analysis was used to examine the cross-sectional association of socioeconomic factors with the participants' understanding of the medication label.


The prevalence of poor understanding of the medication labels was 38.6% among the participants. Out of those participants with poor understanding, 27.9% incorrectly understood at least 4 of the 5 labels. The degree of misunderstanding significantly worsened for older participants (P-value = 0.004), male (P-value < 0.001), with low education level (P-value = 0.002), and low monthly income (P-value = 0.012). The most common features misunderstood were duration of treatment (38.9%) and storage instructions (29.5%).


Prescription label misunderstanding is common among participants. More efforts should be made to improve patients’ understanding by reducing the ambiguity of the prescription labels.

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