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UK confidence in drugs, devices is high, study finds
Eighty eight percent of adults in the UK are confident about the safety of medicines, and 83% express the same view about medical devices, according to new public opinion research carried out for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
Consumers' opinions are often based on either their own experience or that of friends and family, but their general approach to taking medicines is cautious, with most people saying say they read leaflets about medicines and their side effects and 2% saying that they always weigh up the risks and benefits of a medicine before they decide whether to take it or not, the researchers found.
They also discovered that public confidence in medicines and devices stems from an overall confidence in doctors, whom the public trust to weigh up the risks and benefits - 76% of people questioned said they would consult their doctor if they wished to report side effects of medicines, although only 47% would consult their doctor if they wished to report a problem with a medical device.
In seeking information about the risks and benefits of medicines, 61% of people polled said they have approached doctors and 41% have spoken with pharmacists. Almost 90% said they would trust a doctor to provide this kind of information, while pharmacists are also well trusted to provide information (by 64%).
User errors pose greatest risk
In their discussions with healthcare professionals, the researchers were told by pharmacists, hospital physicians and nurses that their experience of using a particular medicine without any complications was important in gaining confidence. General practitioners were found to have generally high levels of confidence in medicines, although they felt that user errors posed the greatest risks.
Almost 90% of doctors think that medicines are adequately regulated in the UK, although no more than one in five is aware that the MHRA regulates medicines and devices. 52% of the pharmacists are aware of this.
Reporting of problems varies greatly, the study discovered, with more than 89% of GPs and pharmacists stating that they would notify the MHRA or use its YellowCard scheme to report an adverse reaction. However, only 6 in 10 hospital physicians and a quarter of all nurses said that they would follow this course of action.
The MHRA is "reassured" by the public confidence revealed by the study's findings, and equally encouraged by some of the views of healthcare professionals, especially their awareness of reporting problems with medicines, said the agency's chief executive, Professor Kent Woods. However, he noted that it has also shown that there are some gaps in knowledge about such as in the reporting of adverse reactions with medical devices. "We are now looking for the best ways of increasing the understanding both of the public and of healthcare professionals about our work," he added.
Michele Corrado, director of health and social research at Ipsos MORI, which conducted the surveys, commented that the results showed confidence in the regulation of medicines and devices is currently very high among health care professionals. "Also, far more members of the public say the benefits of medicines and devices outweigh the risks than feel the risks outweigh the benefits. These findings provide an extremely good platform for MHRA to track views at this fundamentally important time of NHS reforms and debate around health policy," she added. By Lynne Taylor
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