Why we are using the wrong language

Professor Theo Raynor – Communicating benefit and harm information. Lecture starts at 4:10 on the video clip

The EU ‘Risk Communication on Medicines Workshop’ held in Madrid on 16th and 17th June brought together pharmacovigilance and communication experts from national medicines agencies, and representatives from the World Health Organisation, European Medicines Agency, academia, patients, consumers, and healthcare professionals.

In a keynote lecture at the workshop, Professor Theo Raynor criticised aspects of policy and practice in ‘Communicating  benefit and harm information ’ – the title of his lecture. The overall focus of the workshop was on ‘Pharmacovigilance’, and Prof Raynor suggested that we were constantly using the ‘wrong language’ including words like ‘pharmacovigilance’ – which many professionals did not understand, let alone lay people.  Why not call it ‘Safety monitoring of medicines he said.

Prof Raynor also criticised safety wordings recommended by EU bodies for medicines information for patients, including ‘mitchondrial disorder’ and ‘human leukocyte antigen genotype’ – and gave examples of how they could be re-written.

Prof Raynor also gave some tips on getting the best out of ‘user testing’, – to improve the benefit and harm information we give to patients. He argued that the key was to get ‘real people’ to test the information – not ‘expert patients’ from patient organisations. ‘Expert’ patients and ‘real’ patients have equally  important – but separate – roles in information development, he said.