Evaluating drug information resources can be a daunting endeavor. The extent of available material means that library patrons may confine their searches to easily located material rather than researching the reliability of individual sites. As of January 2015, a Google search of “drug information” in quotation marks yielded over nine million results. A basic search for the same phrase in PubMed produced over six thousand results. Given that eight out of ten health inquiries start with a search engine, as the Health Online 2013 survey indicates, a significant need exists for assistance in determining what drug-related health information is relevant and accurate.
This situation presents an opportunity for librarians who regularly consult with health care professionals and may refer patients to online resources.
This essay is neither a comprehensive review of all drug information resources, nor an evaluation of all of the information available on individual sites. Readers may need to consult medical and pharmaceutical publications with an appropriately narrow scope for in-depth analysis and detailed articles evaluating the quality, accuracy, and usability of common drug information resources. More articles providing detailed, head-to-head evaluations of these resources would be valuable. The evaluation conducted for this essay makes clear that content from important and familiar commercial drug information databases such as Micromedex, Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, and Clinical Pharmacology may be found in freely available online resources, with the caveat that this content may be incomplete. By maintaining strict evaluation standards for all drug information resources concerning presentation, access, date of content updates, navigation, and accuracy, librarians can provide essential support for both consumers and professionals who are seeking credible resources. Though a thorough review of the published literature evaluating drug information resources was not possible in this short essay, readers interested in further background may wish to consult the journal articles listed below.
Carvajal, Manuel J., et al. “Associations of Gender and Age Groups on the Knowledge and Use of Drug Information Resources by American Pharmacists.” Pharmacy Practice 11 (April 2013): 71–80.
Clauson, Kevin A., et al. “Clinical Decision Support Tools: Analysis of Online Drug Information Databases.” BMC Medical Informatics & Decision Making 7 (March 2007): 1–7.
Grossman, Sara, and Tina Zerilli. “Health and Medication Information Resources on the World Wide Web.” Journal of Pharmacy Practice 26 (April 2013): 85–94.
Hanrahan, Conor T., and Sabrina W. Cole. “Assessment of Drug Information Resource Preferences of Pharmacy Students and Faculty.” Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) 102 (April 2014): 117–21.
Hughes, Gregory J., Priti Patel, and Christopher Mason. “Medical Resident Choices of Electronic Drug Information Resources.” Journal of Pharmacy Practice. Prepublished August 17, 2014, DOI: 10/1177/0897190014544820.
Mountford, Carmen M., et al. “Quality and Usability of Common Drug Information Databases.” Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy 63 (March 2010):130–7.