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PRESCRIPTION-DRUG PLAN TO HELP PATIENTS

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Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, says it's "America's other drug problem" - the fact that half of Americans do not correctly follow prescription drug dosage instructions.

So he helped drug manufacturer G.D. Searle and Co. announce in Washington Thursday a new program to provide more easily understood information about drugs.The company will provide to doctors and pharmacists easy-to-understand written information for their patients about the drug's use, including potential side effects, what to do if they occur and precautions about any drug interactions. They will have space for the doctor's personal instructions to patients.

All U.S. prescription drugs now are accompanied by detailed technical information, but it is meant more for doctors.

Meanwhile, a survey by Searle of 1,000 prescription-drug users nationally showed half don't follow dosage instruction, 60 percent don't remember everything their doctor told them about their medicine and eight of 10 think additional written information would be helpful.

Hatch, who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, which oversees health issues, said, "This initiative announced today by Searle provides important written information to millions of Americans.

"It is a simple but vitally important step in making progress toward solving what has been termed `America's other drug problem."'

Sheldon G. Gilgore, Searle chairman and chief executive officer, added, "We provide innovative pharmaceuticals that can save or improve people's lives; but these drugs can't do their job unless patients taken them correctly."

Searle's "Patients in the Know" program was billed as the first voluntary, comprehensive effort by a pharmaceutical company to provide such information about prescription drugs worldwide. The company said it has already received requests for information from 5,000 physicians and 10,000 pharmacists.

Information sheets are being made available for Searle's most widely prescribed medications - Calan and Calan SR (used to fight high blood pressure) and Cytotec (an ulcer preventative) - and will be offered for all future Searle drugs.