Further Information on our Position on Fluro Labelling for Singulair and other Medications

CEO Leanne Wells recently spoke to ABC Radio's World Today program about Singulair/montelukast. To give a bit more detail on our position, we've prepared this short post.

The pain and anguish that families experience as a result of insufficient side effect information is simply devastating.   

We agree it is absolutely critical that parents are fully informed so they can 

weigh up the risk versus benefits and make an informed decision.  The provision of information by authorities, prescribers and dispensers in the case of this medication is nowhere near good enough.

CHF is not against putting labelling on the boxes of medications like Singulaire that can have drastic side effects.

Our view is that the response needs to be broader and wider than that: putting a warning label on the packet should only be one part of a solution to this problem.  

Putting a fluro label on a packet has some complexities. For example, there is very little to no space left on the majority of prescription medicine packets, especially after the pharmacy place their own stickers on it.

Another major issue is the timeframe that a labelling change is faced with; the last review that looked at what information should be on prescription packets took 5 years.

There are also valid concerns about how this sort of labelling might affect how people approach taking their prescriptions; already the rates of non-compliance with prescriptions are too high.

Most importantly, the conversation about possible side effects needs to happen before the person has paid for and received the medication. The doctor who prescribes needs to explain any possible side effects, how to recognise them and what to do if they occur. Every time there is a follow up consultation the doctor needs to check to see what side effects are being experienced.  They should also offer more detailed information to take away. Pharmacists should also offer information about the medicine and highlight serious side effects. It is a shared obligation between doctors and pharmacists.

The responsibility does not lie with the person taking the medication to find out the possible side effects on their own. Doctors who prescribe and pharmacists who dispense medications need to make sure the right information is conveyed in a way tailored to the person receiving the prescription.

If we want a change to happen, GPs and pharmacists and what they advise parents are where we first need to focus.