OBJECTIVE: To investigate the information-seeking behaviour of medicine users. METHODS: A telephone survey and follow-up in-depth interviews of a random sample of the adult population in the Hunter Region, NSW, Australia. The survey sought information on medicine use, information seeking, and satisfaction and understanding of the information received. In-depth interviews examined the barriers and facilitators of information seeking. RESULTS: Seven hundred and eighty-six people completed the telephone survey and 58 completed the follow-up interviews. Over half (51%) of the medicine users sought information, primarily to 'manage' their medicines, such as how to use the medicine. Over 30% of the questions asked by users related to 'therapeutic choices', such as how well the medicine worked for a particular condition. Doctors and pharmacists were the most frequent sources of information. A small proportion (10%) reported a potential unmet need for medicines information by indicating they would have liked to ask a question, but did not, or were dissatisfied with the information they received. Barriers to information seeking included perceptions that health care professionals were 'too busy', and that they were unwilling to provide information. CONCLUSIONS: Physicians and pharmacists continue to play an important role in providing consumers with medicines information. Although the reported level of unmet need was low, a significant proportion identified needs relating to information on therapeutic choice, rather than 'classical' drug information. IMPLICATIONS: Medicines-related information for the public should include advice on comparative performance of drugs, and be provided within the wider framework of general health information.
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health Vol. 25, Issue 6, p. 564-570