Where do YOU look up information about prescription medications? Wikipedia is the most used resource around the world! Google and WedMD are also popular and about half of all Americans uses them. Unfortunately, these websites are not always accurate and up-to-date online resources.
A study called “Drug Safety in the Digital Age” that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the reliability of drug information found on these commonly viewed sites on the Internet. The study looked at how quickly these sites are updated after the FDA issues a safety warning about a particular drug. They specifically looked at 22 prescriptions drugs over a 2-year timeframe.
They concluded that more than 1/3 of Wikipedia pages were updated within 2 weeks; however, 23% were updated in over 2 weeks and more than 1/3 were not updated more than a year later. The average length of time was 42 days.
The article stated that FDA.gov is the best resource for accurate and updated information. A caution that the article noted stated, “Currently, safety communications are housed on the Med-Watch portal, whereas electronic drug labels containing information on efficacy, dosage, and contraindications are located in the [email protected] database – and there is no obvious link between these two resources.” For Twitter users, FDA also has two Twitter accounts (@FDA_Drug_Info and @FDAMedWatch).
Generally, the study suggested that people cross-reference information that they find with credible resources.
Gupta, Saarik. (2014, October). How reliable is the drug info you find online? CNN Health.
Brittany Best, BA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern