International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 806–822 | Cite as

Potential negative impact of informing patients about medication side effects: a systematic review

  • Jimmy JoseEmail author
  • Lamia AlHajri
Review Article


Background Pharmacovigilance, as it is carried out primarily by healthcare professionals is more focused on being very objective in nature. Acknowledging the importance of the subjective experience of patients in pharmacovigilance was underpinned by its unique ability to bring about a more holistic understanding through the deep information unraveled by the patients. Medication safety-related information has to be shared with patients to allow them to be actively involved in their therapy and pharmacovigilance. Despite the advantages of sharing information, it stands to reasons whether sharing information related to possible side effects would negatively affect patients and impinge upon their treatment plan and process. Aim of the Review The purpose of this systematic review was to critically assess the potential negative impact of informing patients about medication side effects by written and/or oral information on medication compliance, occurrence/development of suspected side effects and clinical outcomes. Method A comprehensive search was conducted in PubMed, and Cochrane library to identify potential records between the year 1975 and 2017; then titles, abstracts, and full texts were screened using the inclusion criteria to filter out irrelevant studies. The data extraction, and the results were narratively synthesized and presented in tables. Results A total of 2012 articles were screened for inclusion, 32 full-text articles were assessed for eligibility and finally resulting in the inclusion of 17 randomized control studies which met the set criteria. Findings unraveled that the educational intervention did not result in increased occurrence/reporting of side effects in most of the evaluated studies; except 4 studies, and no significant impact on compliance to medications and negative clinical outcome was observed. Apprehension of negative events to medications were observed in two of the four studies which evaluated these parameters. Conclusion The present review did not find enough evidence to support the over concerns on the potential negative impact of sharing of information on the adverse effects to patients, though the influence could manifest as nocebo-effect. The various components and methods employed for this information sharing process can influence the potential impact of this activity. These concerns about the undesirable effects should not deter the active involvement of patients in pharmacovigilance activities. There is a definite need to have more studies in this area, where much of concern still does exist among the various stakeholders of drug safety information.


Adverse drug reactions Drug safety information Nocebo effect Patient education Pharmacovigilance Side effects 



Authors would like to acknowledge the contribution of Hisn A’Shumookh library, Sultanate of Oman and Dr. James Stevenson, College of Pharmacy, University of Michigan in facilitating the access of many full text articles included in the review.


The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Conflicts of interest

Jimmy Jose and Lamia AlHajri declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PharmacyUniversity of NizwaNizwaSultanate of Oman
  2. 2.Health Sciences DivisionHigher College of TechnologyDubaiUnited Arab Emirates
  3. 3.Department of Health ResearchLancaster UniversityLancasterUK

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