Risk communication is an interactive two-way process that various stakeholders (e.g., patients, regulators, industry) utilize to address prescription drug safety. This paper will specifically examine the pharmaceutical industry’s engagement with risk communication as a tool for information exchange with patients and other stakeholders about the associated risks related to its medicines. Risk communications are not solely meant to inform; and rather effective two way risk communications have the potential to change behavioral outcomes for the purpose of individual and societal benefit. Despite this indispensable role of risk communication for the pharmaceutical industry, more research is needed for the appropriate development and dissemination of risk communications. A crucial missing component for the crafting of pharmaceutical risk communications is the understanding of risk perceptions from the patient/consumer’s perspective. This is necessary to see where any divergences in views may lie between the industry and its final consumer, which is crucial in tailoring communications to target a specific erroneous belief or to address what might be deemed as a needed behavioral shift. It is also necessary to develop communications in consideration of the levels of public trust in the industry as well as other perceived actors in the healthcare system. Even the most meticulously crafted and tested risk communications will fail to fulfill their purpose if the role of trust is not taken into consideration. These considerations can lead to the establishment of a “social contract” that effectively addresses what is required from both parties for continued and mutually beneficial interactions. Conducting risk perception research, addressing the role of trust, establishing a social contract, and having a realistic outlook on the impact of risk communications are necessary considerations as pharmaceutical risk communication evolves for the future.
Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford, Manor Road Building, Manor Road, Oxford, OX1 3UQ, UK