Research

Wikipedia can omit key drug information

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New research warns that consumers who relay on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia for drug information may be putting themselves at risk. The research compared the completeness of drug entries on 80 drugs to those on a dedicated, peer-reviewed drug data site, Medscape Drug Reference (MDR) The research in the December issue of the Annals of Pharmacotherapy, says that relying solely on the user-edited drug data available Wikipedia could put consumers at risk of potentially harmful drug interactions and adverse effects. Dr Kevin Clauson of Nova Southeastern, Florida, and his colleagues found few factual errors in their uation of Wikipedia entries on 80 drugs. But observed the entries were often missing important information, on issues such as drug interactions. The reserachers investigated the accuracy and completeness of drug information on the user-edited Wikipedia online site. They decided to investigate the accuracy of Wikipedia listings as up to a third of health-related Internet searches are for over the counter or prescription drugs, and often return a Wikipedia entry as one of the top listed results. “If people went and used this as a sole or authoritative source without contacting a health professional…those are the types of negative impacts that can occur,” Clauson said in an interview with Reuters Health. According to the Reuters Health report the researchers compared Wikipedia to MDR, a free peer-reviewed site, by looking for answers to 80 different questions covering eight categories of drug information, for example adverse drug events, dosages, and mechanism of action. While MDR provided answers to 82.5% of the questions, Wikipedia could only answer 40%. Answers were also found to be less likely to be complete for Wikipedia, as well. Of the answers the researchers found on Wikipedia, none were factually inaccurate, while there were four inaccurate answers in MDR. In addition the researchers spotted 48 errors of omission in the Wikipedia entries, compared to 14 for MDR. Clauson said ommissions could be just as harmful as inaccuracies, and according to the Reuters report claimed that drug company representatives have been caught deleting information from Wikipedia entries that make their drugs look unsafe.

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