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Making drugs more convenient to use: progress that often goes unnoticed

Convenience, in other words the ease and safety of use, is a factor in a drug's harm-benefit balance. This important source of therapeutic progress is examined in the special issue of non-profit French journal Prescrire devoted to "Therapeutic advances that benefit patients".

Therapeutic advance does not stop at achieving better efficacy or a more acceptable adverse effects profile. An improvement in the practical usability of a drug, referred to as its convenience, can also represent progress for healthcare, for patients and sometimes for their caregivers. It includes the drug's ease of use, how well adapted it is to the clinical context, and the prevention of dangers related to its use.

The route  of administration may be better adapted, be less prone to error, or be less burdensome compared to the existing route. For example, sub-cutaneous injection sometimes means a drug can be administered by patients themselves or by family members, whereas the intravenous route requires a healthcare professional.

Evaluating the interest of a particular pharmaceutical form (tablet, suppository, patch, etc.) involves taking into account the steps that are required to prepare the dose to be administered, the precautions to be taken, and the risks of error. For example, a multi-dose oral form with an appropriate dosing device is useful for treating a young child when the dose must be adapted with precision.

Different aspects of packaging can constitute an advance: information for patients and for healthcare professionals, devices provided to prepare and administer doses, means for preventing a risk of misuse. For example, when a drug's composition is clearly identified, this represents progress for patients. Informative leaflets, tested by a panel of patients, also constitute progress.

In practice, analysing convenience, taking into account the patient and the clinical situation in which care is delivered, is helpful in choosing between the many drugs available on the market.  

©Prescrire 1 August 2015

"Des progrès décisifs au profit des patients" Rev Prescrire 2015; 35 (382). View the table of contents (Free, in French)

View the table of contents of
the special issue of French
medical journal Prescrire
Free (in French)

For more information:

2014 Drug Packaging
(May 2015)

Drug packaging
and patient safety
healthcare policy)