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Online Drug Information Resources (June 2015): Evaluation of Drug Information Resources

By Kristy Steigerwalt

Evaluating Drug Information Resources

An evaluation of online drug information resources parallels evaluation of general online materials. Each tertiary resource discussed in this essay was subjected to a systematic evaluation that included, but was not limited to, assessing its URL, domain name, author/editor credentials (when available), intended audience, purpose, funding organization, sources(s) of information, cost, currency (date of last update, among other factors), potential bias, ease of navigation, search capabilities, content, features, accuracy, links to additional resources, transparency, and availability of a mobile interface.

The purpose, authority, accuracy, and objectivity of a website are paramount to assessing reliability. Other important factors include reviewing the domain name for quality of information, ascertaining dates of last modification for individual documents, and reviewing the “about” section of the resource. This last section is distinctly important as it may indicate an affiliation with a pharmaceutical company or other commercial entity and tangentially a certain intrinsic bias. Additionally, while identifying board members and editors (and their credentials) is valuable, awareness of the sources of core information is essential. Evaluating individual pieces of drug-related information may be impossible or, at the very least, unfeasible; however, the credibility of information providers often gives a clue to information accuracy.

Other important elements of online drug information evaluation are currency and completeness. The US Food and Drug Administration approves new drug applications and biologics monthly. Without current, updated drug information resources, data may quickly become obsolete, incomplete, or inaccurate. What follows is a list of drug information websites and online subscription-based resources with corresponding descriptions and brief evaluations. This essay addresses commercial databases first and then free websites, with both sections alphabetically arranged for convenience. An “Evaluation” statement at the end of each overview indicates whether a resource is “highly recommended” or “recommended.” Readers will find that many of the resources discussed have a broad range of potential users.