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Harper Government Launches Plain Language Labelling Initiative to Improve Drug Safety for Canadians - Proposed changes will make it easier for Canadians to read drug labels

June 14, 2013
For immediate release

Fact Sheet: Plain Language Labelling

OTTAWA - The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, today announced the launch of the Plain Language Labelling Initiative, which aims to improve the safe use of drugs by making drug labels and safety information easier to read and understand. Minister Aglukkaq was accompanied by Terence Young, Member of Parliament for Oakville.

"Every day millions of Canadians rely on drugs to maintain and improve their health. While medications offer significant benefits, they can also carry some risks," said Minister Aglukkaq. "I am pleased to announce that our Government will be making plain language a requirement on drug packages in order to help prevent adverse drug reactions, medication errors and protect Canadian patients."

To work properly and reduce the chance of harm, drugs should be taken according to the information provided on the label or package. Yet, today's drug product information can be confusing to follow. Too often, people experience unnecessary harms as a result of drug labels, packaging or names that may be hard to understand or they sound similar to other drugs. As many as 1 in 9 emergency rooms visits are related to drug adverse events, and as many as 68% of those are preventable.

"Drug labels are as important as traffic lights. They are as important as fire alarms. This is a generational change. What the Minister is announcing today will save hundreds of lives a year," said MP Young.

"This new approach will make safety information more accessible to health care practitioners and all Canadians," said Aglukkaq. "This will benefit families, and help reduce strain on our healthcare system across the country."

The goal of this initiative is to reduce preventable harm. Health Canada will begin by targeting improvements to the regulations, such as requiring evidence that drug names will not be confusing, providing guidance and education, and engaging with key stakeholders along the way.

June 14, 2013 - The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, joined by Bernard Trottier, MP for Etobicoke-Lakeview, and Terence Young, MP for Oakville, announced an initiative aimed to improve the safe use of drugs by making drug labels and safety information easier to read and understand.

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Health Canada
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Cailin Rodgers
Office of the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
Federal Minister of Health
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