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December 20, 1965

To Label or Not to Label

JAMA. 1965;194(12):1311. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090250045012

In a less sophisticated era, when the art of medical practice outweighed scientific knowledge, physicians did not tell their patients the identity of the medications they prescribed. Today, this practice is being gradually abandoned, and increasing numbers of physicians ask pharmacists to indicate on the label the names and strengths of the drugs they prescribe. The Council on Drugs believes that all physicians should adopt this policy, and make an exception only when such disclosure would be detrimental to the welfare of the patient. In a prior discussion of this subject,1 the Council made a number of the following points:

  • The patient has the right to be informed about his illness and the medications prescribed.

  • In emergency situations, such as accidental poisoning, overdosage, or attempted suicide, immediate identification of a prescription drug from the label may be lifesaving.

  • The information is invaluable when the patient changes physicians, moves to

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