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Consumer Information for Prescription Medications

Subject Matter

Health Canada was in the process of developing new consumer information to inform Canadians about the use of different prescription medications, including ingredients, directions on how to use safely, potential side effects, and similar information. The goal was to develop a model that could be used for all prescription drugs available in Canada. To support the design of these product descriptions, the research assessed participant reaction to draft documents to ensure that they were clear, well designed, and met the needs of Canadians.


A set of 16 focus groups was conducted in six locations with various segments of the population, including current users and non-users of information on medications, seniors, youth, new Canadians and Aboriginal Canadians. Separate focus groups were held with each of these audiences. The groups also consisted of a mix of participants by education and age (within the relevant parameters – i.e. youth, seniors). Five groups were held in Montreal, three in Red Deer, and two in each of Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver and Trois Rivières. All groups in Montreal and Trois Rivières were held in French (except for the Montreal group with Aboriginal Canadians). Approximately half the participants in Red Deer and Trois Rivières were drawn from outside the city to provide for the input of rural residents. Approximately 8-10 participants took part in each group. Two draft documents were prepared and reviewed by participants. Recruitment of Aboriginal Canadians and new Canadians used a variety of methods, including phone calls, referrals, and assistance from immigrant associations and Aboriginal Friendship Centres.

This study involved the following challenges:

  • Because of the importance of this information to personal health, it was necessary to ensure that the information be understood by many different types of Canadians. To address this, representatives of many different subgroups were recruited, including those who might be more likely to experience comprehension difficulties (e.g. seniors, new Canadians, Aboriginal Canadians).
  • It was necessary to understand how these information products compared with existing versions available on the market (produced by pharmaceutical or drug companies). To address this, recruitment of participants included current users of similar information.
  • It was important to provide health product information that would be meaningful to participants and to which they could relate. This was addressed by focusing on common ailments (e.g. high blood pressure, diabetes) and matching groups with the appropriate documents (e.g. seniors with information about blood pressure, Aboriginal Canadians with information about diabetes).
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