King's College London

Research portal

Pharmaceutical Benefit–Risk Communication Tools: A Review of the Literature

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Dominic Way, Hortense Blazsin, Ragnar Lofstedt, Frederic Bouder

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalDrug Safety
E-pub ahead of print14 Oct 2016

King's Authors


This paper reviews the main tools for communicating benefit–risk medicines information to patients that are used, or could be used, by pharmaceutical regulators. One highly successful tool from the food safety sector (front-of-package traffic-light labelling) and the mental models approach (which provides a framework for developing new tools) are also reviewed as they show great promise for being usefully adapted to the pharmaceutical context. The evolution of benefit–risk medicines communication is first contextualised within the broader risk communication literature. Three distinct goals are then made explicit before critically examining the evidence for and against tools developed in the US (e.g. at the Food and Drug Administration [FDA]) and Europe (e.g. at the European Medicines Agency [EMA]). These goals are (i) sharing information (e.g. publishing clinical trial and adverse event data online); (ii) changing patients’ beliefs by conveying factual knowledge (e.g. patient information leaflets and the drugs facts box); and (iii) changing behaviour (e.g. patient alert cards and warning labels). The mental models approach and traffic-light labelling, developed outside the pharmaceutical context, are then examined. Ultimately, the paper provides a helicopter view of the variety of benefit–risk communication tools that are used, or could be used, by pharmaceutical regulators in the US and Europe.

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454