Objective To examine the effects of providing two different types of written information about medicine benefits in a patient information leaflet (PIL).

Setting Participants were 358 adult volunteers from the general population recruited from a London railway station and central Reading.

Method The study used a controlled empirical methodology in which people were given a hypothetical, but realistic, scenario about visiting their doctor and being prescribed medication. They then read an information leaflet about the medicine that contained neither, one, or both benefit statements, and finally completed a number of Likert rating scales. Outcome measures included perceived satisfaction and helpfulness of the information, effectiveness and appropriateness of the medicine, benefit and risk to health, and intention to comply.

Key findings Both types of benefit information led to significantly higher ratings on all of the measures taken.

Conclusions Provision of a relatively short ‘benefit’ statement can significantly improve people's judgements and intention to take a medicine. The findings are important and timely as the European Union is currently considering reviewing their regulations to allow for the inclusion of limited non-promotional benefit information in PILs.