Medication errors represent a major public health concern, and inadequate prescription drug labels have been identified as a root cause of errors. A new prescription medication labeling system was implemented by Target pharmacies in May 2005 and aimed to improve health outcomes.
To evaluate whether the new Target label influenced patient health services utilization.
Derived from 2 large health plans.
Research Design and Measures
Using administrative claims, we identified patients with 1 of 9 chronic diseases who filled prescriptions at Target pharmacies and a matched sample who filled prescriptions at other community pharmacies. We stratified our cohort into new and prevalent medication users and evaluated the impact of the Target label on outpatient, emergency department and inpatient health services use. We used linear regression and segmented linear regression to evaluate the new-user and prevalent-user analyses, respectively.
Our sample included 23,745 Target pharmacy users and 162,369 matched non-Target pharmacy users. In the new-user analysis, we found no significant change in rates of both outpatient (event rate ratio: 0.53; 95% CI: 0.15–1.86) and inpatient and emergency department (Event rate ratio: 0.88; 95% CI: 0.62–1.24) health services utilization in Target users after implementation when compared with non-Target users. Similarly, in the prevalent user analysis, we found no change in the level or slope of outpatient or emergency/inpatient services in Target users after implementation of the new label when compared with non-Target users.
We found no statistically significant change in health services use attributable to the implementation of the new prescription drug label at Target pharmacies. These findings highlight the challenge of influencing health outcomes with interventions to improve health literacy.
Keywords: labels, prescription medication, health literacy, health outcomes