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Interpretation of recommended risk terms: differences between doctors and lay people

Berry, D.C., Holden, W. and Bersellini, E. (2004) Interpretation of recommended risk terms: differences between doctors and lay people. International Journal of Pharmacy Practice, 12 (3). pp. 117-124. ISSN 0961-7671

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1211/0022357044120


Objectives: To examine doctors' (Experiment 1) and doctors' and lay people's (Experiment 2) interpretations of two sets of recommended verbal labels for conveying information about side effects incidence rates. Method: Both studies used a controlled empirical methodology in which participants were presented with a hypothetical, but realistic, scenario involving a prescribed medication that was said to be associated with either mild or severe side effects. The probability of each side effect was described using one of the five descriptors advocated by the European Union (Experiment 1) or one of the six descriptors advocated in Calman's risk scale (Experiment 2), and study participants were required to estimate (numerically) the probability of each side effect occurring. Key findings: Experiment 1 showed that the doctors significantly overestimated the risk of side effects occurring when interpreting the five EU descriptors, compared with the assigned probability ranges. Experiment 2 showed that both groups significantly overestimated risk when given the six Calman descriptors, although the degree of overestimation was not as great for the doctors as for the lay people. Conclusion: On the basis of our findings, we argue that we are still a long way from achieving a standardised language of risk for use by both professionals and the general public, although there might be more potential for use of standardised terms among professionals. In the meantime, the EU and other regulatory bodies and health professionals should be very cautious about advocating the use of particular verbal labels for describing medication side effects.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences
ID Code:14145

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