Should antibiotic packaging contain a warning about antibiotic resistance? (2)

23 November, 2020

The evidence base for pictures on packets of cigarettes reducing the incidence of smoking is clear (see below). So it should work also for medicines packaging. On containers of antibiotics, there should perhaps be graphic images of the face or skin or lung xray of some one who has an antibiotic-resistant infection, visually illustrating the consequences of AMR.

HIFA profile: Richard Fitton is a retired family doctor - GP, British Medical Association. Professional interests: Health literacy, patient partnership of trust and implementation of healthcare with professionals, family and public involvement in the prevention of modern lifestyle diseases, patients using access to professional records to overcome confidentiality barriers to care, patients as part of the policing of the use of their patient data

Email address: richardpeterfitton7 AT


WHO | Gruesome photos on cigarette packages reduce tobacco use

Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Rob Cunningham

Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2009;87:569-569. doi: 10.2471/BLT.09.069559

The tobacco product package is the most cost-effective communication medium available to governments to convey health messages. Well-designed warnings are very effective. 2 � 4 Warning messages are determined by health departments and paid for by tobacco companies.

Package warnings reach the entire population. They provide mass public education and work 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. A consumer may take out a package 20 times per day, i.e. about 7300 times per year. Packages are seen by others, including by spouses, children, friends and co-workers. Packages can thus have an impact on both consumers and non-consumers.

As the FCTC Guidelines recognize, health warnings with graphic images of the negative health effects are far more effective than text-only warnings. 5 A picture does indeed say a thousand words. Compared to text-only warnings, pictures are more noticeable, more memorable and have more emotional impact. Indeed, WHO chose pictorial warnings as the 2009 theme for World No Tobacco Day. 6

Picture-based warnings are especially important in developing countries where there are higher rates of illiteracy and low literacy. How useful is a text-only warning to a person who cannot read? And some people might not be able to read the official language(s), such as some immigrants, temporary workers and individuals from minority language groups.