Without sufficient knowledge about the risks and benefits of using medicines and when and how to use them, people will often not get the expected clinical outcomes and may suffer adverse effects. This is true for prescribed medicines, as well as medicines used without the advice of health professionals. Governments have a responsibility to ensure both the quality of medicines and the quality of the information about medicines available to consumers. This will require:
• Ensuring that over-the-counter medicines are sold with adequate labelling and instructions that are accurate, legible, and easily understood by laypersons. The information should include the medicine name, indications, contra-indications, dosages, drug interactions, and warnings concerning unsafe use or storage.
• Monitoring and regulating advertising, which may adversely influence consumers as well as prescribers, and which may occur through television, radio, newspapers and the internet.
• Running targeted public education campaigns, which take into account cultural beliefs and the influence of social factors. Education about the use of medicines may be introduced into the health education component of school curricula or into adult education programmes, such as literacy courses.