Various formats for the e-labelling of medicines may hinder patient access to information, a new report has warned.

The paper – called E-labelling and Digital Transformation in Pharmacy from the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) – suggested that an ‘approved format’ to simplify and enhance the process of e-labelling would be useful in providing access to information.

Lars-Åke Söderlund, FIP vice president and co-chair of FIP’s technology advisory group, said: ‘E-labelling can offer a host of benefits to patients, but responsible regulation will be key in ensuring a patient-centred approach that is consistent across the board and doesn’t leave communities behind.’

The report also underlines the importance of all e-labelling platforms complying with the legal and regulatory frameworks governing healthcare and pharmaceuticals in each market, but acknowledges that this will be a challenge, given the geographical differences.

Mr Söderlund said: ‘As pharmacists, we can play a key role in the transition towards a new labelling system by serving as a bridge between regulators and patients.

‘While e-labelling has been explored in some countries, it's still in its infancy in most parts of the world, so it’s important to discuss what the transition could look like and how this could impact patients and pharmacy professionals.’

According to the report, e-labelling can play a significant role in providing equitable, accessible and patient-centred care by tailoring information to the needs and preferences of the individual, and enabling access to information in preferred languages and format, such as text, audio or video.

The transition to digital comes at a time when the effectiveness of patient information leaflets (PILs) is being questioned.

Recent research led by Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network revealed that only a third of patients fully understand the PIL provided with their medicine, while less than half usually read it.

Last year, legislation came into effect to allow pharmacists to round the prescribed amount of valproate-containing medicines either up or down so that the patient receives only complete packs, thereby ensuring PILs are included.

However, according to a report by the Health Policy Partnership, paper-based medicine information is often considered unclear and inaccessible, and it is poorly suited to meet the needs of many people.

Transitioning to electronic product information offers the opportunity to make medicine information more accessible and tailored to the needs of each person, the Health Policy Partnership argued.

Josephine Fubara, chief science officer at Sanofi Consumer Healthcare, which funded the FIP report, said: ‘E-labelling aims to make healthcare as simple as it should be, and, with the correct prerequisites in place, I believe it can be a positive move towards bridging inequitable access to medicines information, increasing medication adherence and enabling successful self-care.’