Background: Medicines are likely to assume an increasingly important role in helping people to remain healthy. But there are few indications as to what information and other support do people want when assessing the risks and benefits of medicines; what role they feel government and healthcare professionals should play in informing, advising and encouraging healthy people on the potential benefits and possible risks of prophylactic medicines; and ultimately, where does the responsibility for maintaining a person’s health lie?
Methods: A Citizens’ Jury was convened in October 2006 to consider these issues against the background of healthy living in general. The Jury was a broadly representative group of 16 people drawn from the community. A number of experts in clinical medicine, pharmacology and public health gave evidence, and were questioned by the jurors. Vascular prophylaxis by daily low-dose of aspirin was used as a case study throughout the discussions.
Results: The judgements of the jury included a clear demand for more information on health issues in general and on prophylactic medicines in particular, together with a desire that the public be more closely and openly involved in decision taking in all matters relevant to health. The jurors were generally receptive to the possible role of medicines in the maintenance of health, and a majority argued that people should be presented with evidence on medicines with possible health benefits, even when there is disagreement between experts about efficacy.
Conclusion: The strategy of the Citizens’ Jury, alongside other deliberative methods, could clearly have an important and valuable role in the formulation of public health and social policy.
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