Coloured pictograms would be an efficient alternative for the yellow stickers on medication packaging. This is one of the results from the five-year European research project DRUID, which investigated the effect of medication on driving ability. Professor of Pharmaceutical Patient Care Han de Gier was involved in the research. De Gier and his colleagues presented the results of their research during the final DRUID conference on 27 and 28 September in Cologne.
Large groups of people use medication that affects driving ability, such as sleeping pills, tranquillizers and also antidepressants. However, not enough attention is being paid to the effects of these medications on traffic, Han de Gier says. ‘No driver wants to take medication that has the same effect as four drinks. Unfortunately it’s no rarity for parents taking medication to drive a group of children to the sports club.’
The effects of medication on driving ability are included in the information leaflet, but it’s often too vague, in De Gier’s opinion. ‘The information leaflet cannot help the patient decide whether or not to take the medication, and if they do, how they can then adapt their driving behaviour.’
In addition, medication that affects driving ability is marked with a yellow sticker, but that usually misses its goal too. De Gier: ‘About 70 percent of patients ignore this sticker, also because GPs don’t usually warn them about the risks when prescribing the medication.’
A new categorization system should make things clearer for patients. The new warning will then consist of a bar with categories from 0 to 3, with a warning triangle with a car. Medication that has serious effects on driving ability, such as sleeping pills and tranquilizers, falls into the third category. Medication that only makes you slightly drowsy, such as certain hay fever medicines (antihistamines), falls into category 1.
‘Patients need to know that there can be differences between medication types’, says De Gier. ‘What is important is that people first have to take the medication and then see if it makes them drowsy.If it does, they can then discuss with their GP or pharmacist what they should do. People who have to drive a lot or operate complicated machinery may be able to take medication that falls into a lower category.’
De Gier hopes that Dutch policymakers will adopt the classification system. France has already introduced a version of the new classification.
Another research line within the DRUID project has shown that pharmacists have a lot of knowledge about medication and traffic safety after following a training course. Patients are also better informed without having to ask. This training should become part of the regular training and refresher courses for GPs and pharmacists.
The results were obtained within the framework of the DRUID research project (DRiving Under Influence of Drugs, Alcohol and Medicines), conducted under the auspices of the European Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). More than thirty research institutes from eighteen European countries were involved in the research. The budget for the five-year DRUID project was EUR 23.5 million.
Contact: Prof. De Gier
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