[Skip to Content]
Access to paid content on this site is currently suspended due to excessive activity being detected from your IP address Please contact the publisher to request reinstatement.
[Skip to Content Landing]
February 25, 1974

Variations in Interpretation of Prescription Instructions: The Need for Improved Prescribing Habits

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology (Drs. Mazzullo and Lasagna), Division of Clinical Pharmacology, and the Department of Medicine (Dr. Griner).

JAMA. 1974;227(8):929-931. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230210039009

Sixty-seven patients interpreted instructions on each of ten prescription labels. Not once was a label uniformly interpreted by all patients.

Besides variability in the interpretation of imprecise instructions, frequent misinterpretation of explicit instructions occurred. With five prescriptions whose instructions were not ambiguous, the frequency of interpretive errors ranged from 9% to 64%.

These observations illustrate the need for physicians to provide medication instructions that are consistent with the patient's daily activities and to review these instructions with the patient.