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The Veterans Health Administration has announced big changes to their prescription labels. The changes were made based on feedback from hundreds of Veterans, as well as VA pharmacy staff members who were asked to explain what they did and did not like about existing labels.

The study was conducted by the VA National Center for Patient Safety (NCPS), together with Pharmacy Benefits Management Services. The purpose was to identify changes that needed to be made to the current pharmacy labels, as well as to improve the way labels helped to convey important information about the drugs patients must take.

What Kind of Changes can Veterans Expect?

In addition to a cleaner overall appearance, the new labels have your name at the top of the label, include bolded instructions on how to take the medication, and now notify patients of deadlines for prescription refills.

In addition to providing new and improved labels, the VA is hoping to encourage Veterans to take more active roles and responsibilities in their health by asking questions if they are confused about their medication in any way – including how to take the medication, when to take the medication, concerns over potential interactions, and any other questions they may have about their health and prescription medications.

Why are These Changes so Critical?

According to the VA website, more than 4.8 million U.S. Veterans take advantage of the prescription benefits with annual growth of about one percent each year. The VA fills more than 143 million prescriptions each year and employs more than 7,000 pharmacies and 4,000 additional pharmacy techs.

There is widespread agreement that Veterans who understand the proper way to take their medications have better health outcomes and ultimately decrease healthcare costs, which are approximately $3.7 billion each year.

There were many things that went into creating the new labels, especially in regards to the clarity of instructions. One thing that has been taken into account with the new labels is that literacy levels of patients.

By explaining instructions in language that Veterans, seniors in particular, with varying literacy levels can understand, the new labels improve the likelihood that Vets will comprehend the instructions and, as a result, take their medications the way they are meant to be taken.

Why New Labels?

Aside from the confusion many patients experienced upon reading instructions, previous labels held no information about dates for prescription refills, and did not always include the patient’s names in a place of prominence, making it easier to accidentally take medications meant for someone else. The new labels are designed around the veteran(s) patient in a consistent format with clear, easy to understand instructions.

Small changes, like this, from the VA can have a substantial impact on efforts to improve patient safety and the responsible use of prescription medications.

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