Wikipedia Is Probably Not Your Best Source of Drug Information

Sep 2, 2009 by

Wikipedia Is Probably Not Your Best Source of Drug Information

Wikipedia, the free-to-use online encyclopedia, has become the information source of choice for many internet users. And that includes surfers who are looking for health information. Wikipedia pages, of course, also rank highly in the search engines for many search terms.

When it comes to information on medical drugs, however, recent research has surfaced a problem – critical information, such as that on side effects, is often missing. Read more in the following article.

Important Drug Information Often Missing from Wikipedia

by Reuben Chow

Go to Google.com, key in terms such as “aspirin”, “panadol”, “beta blockers”, “warfarin” or “statin“, and a Wikipedia page will be somewhere near the top of the first page of search results. With many people searching online for health-related information, and a significant proportion of them looking up pharmaceutical drugs, it is important that the information provided on Wikipedia is unbiased, accurate and complete. However, a study which was published in the December 2008 issue of The Annals of Pharmacotherapy has suggested otherwise, having discovered that Wikipedia pages are often missing important information on pharmaceutical drug medications, including possible dangerous side effects and drug interactions.

About Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a free-to-access online encyclopedia featuring just about any topic of interest you can imagine, be it history, science, famous people or places. It has millions of pages covering over 250 languages. You can think of any subject matter – sports teams, flowers, songs, brand names – type it into Google and, chances are, a Wikipedia page will appear in the top ten results.

Wikipedia is unique in that users can add and edit content. This makes Wikipedia a global free marketplace of information, with content provided for users by users.

Details and Findings of Study

In the study, the research team analyzed Wikipedia pages relating to 80 different drugs. While they discovered few factual errors, they also found that Wikipedia pages tended to leave out important information on pharmaceutical drugs. For example, one potential dangerous adverse effect of the anti-inflammatory drug Arthrotec (diclofenac and misoprostol) is that it can cause miscarriage, yet this piece of information is omitted. Another example of missing information is the possibility of the herb St John’s Wort interfering with the action of Prezista (darunavir), a HIV drug.

“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,” said Dr Kevin A Clauson of Nova Southeastern University in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, the leader of the study.

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