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 twoway
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.
Keywords: Risk communication, trust, risk perception, social contract.
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