Whilst visiting a local pharmacy recently, I came across a notice that free flu jabs were available for qualifying NHS patients. This seemed like a much simpler way to get immunised than visiting my GP to find an appointment, then returning for the vaccination at some point in the future, particularly with the nightmare that is parking in our local town.
All I had to do was complete a simple form and, being in one of the groups that qualify for a free immunisation, I was able to have the jab right there and then. No waiting, no return visit.
So far, so good. The whole process of receiving the injection was (relatively) painless and the pharmacist friendly and competent, but several things struck me as unusual.
Firstly, I was given the (Instructions for Use) IFU to take away, and encouraged to read it by the pharmacist. This was the first time in 7 years that I’d been provided with any information about the drug product I had been dosed with, let alone side-effects. Perhaps I should have been firm in asking previously, but that’s a topic for another time perhaps.
While in the pharmacy, I found the IFU was difficult to open. Luckily, I have full use of my hands, fingers and eyes, unlike many of the target patient population, yet it was still a challenge. As seems typical for pharmaceutical products, the IFU was on very thin paper, and folded in a way that seemed to actively combat attempts to open or re-fold. Bizarrely, the IFU was glued down, making it hard to actually unfold. Having been involved in packaging line qualification in a previous life, I appreciate all these features were probably there to aid assembly of the final product (pre-filled syringe, IFU and carton). I am, however, curious to know what was done with users to ensure they were able to use the IFU.
Finally, having wrestled with the IFU to get it open to read, finding the key information took some searching. Hidden in amongst prescribing information were a few paragraphs that were of use to me, as the patient. Although there were some key steps required before injecting the drug, the pharmacist didn’t appear to once refer to the information about administering the drug.
Yes, I did read through the IFU, and have retained it in case I experienced any side-effects. However, I am perhaps unusual in doing so and persevering with finding the relevant information. Surely we can do better, and we should do better, we should chose to develop IFUs that are usable, readable by, and impart relevant information clearly to, the users and patients.
Of course, if the manufacturer of the vaccine in question would like to discuss developing a more effective IFU, I’d be happy to talk with them 🙂