One May Start There, But Be Sure To Check More Comprehensive Online Sites Such As MedlinePlus.gov And Medscape.com
(Posted by Tom Lamb at DrugInjuryWatch.com)
A November 25, 2008 Reuters Health article, "Wikipedia often omits important drug information: study", by reporter Anne Harding, had this precautionary advice for people who are are looking for information about their prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications:
Consumers who rely on the user-edited Web resource Wikipedia for information on medications are putting themselves at risk of potentially harmful drug interactions and adverse effects, new research shows.
The source for this Reuters Health article is a report from the December 2008 edition of The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, "Scope, Completeness, and Accuracy of Drug Information in Wikipedia", which was published early on the medical journal's web site.
From the Abstract for this December 2008 report, we get this overview:
OBJECTIVE: To compare the scope, completeness, and accuracy of drug information in Wikipedia with that of a free, online, traditionally edited database (Medscape Drug Reference [MDR])....
CONCLUSIONS: Wikipedia has a more narrow scope, is less complete, and has more errors of omission than the comparator database. Wikipedia may be a useful point of engagement for consumers, but is not authoritative and should only be a supplemental source of drug information.
The November 25 Reuters article provided some insights from one of the researchers who prepared this Wikipedia - drug information report:
"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," [Dr. Kevin A. Clauson of Nova Southeastern University in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida] told Reuters Health....
"I think that these errors of omission can be just as dangerous" as inaccuracies, Clauson told Reuters Health. He pointed out that drug company representatives have been caught deleting information from Wikipedia entries that make their drugs look unsafe....
Wikipedia can be a good jumping-off point for Internet research, Clauson said, but shouldn't be seen as the last word on any topic-and should certainly not be used as a resource by medical professionals. "You still probably want to go to medlineplus.gov or medscape.com for good quality information that you can feel confident in," he said.
If you are not familiar with Wikipedia, it is commonly described as a free, online encyclopedia covering millions of topics which allows the users, themselves, to add, delete, edit, or otherwise modify the content of its articles.
It seems that this "unique" situation, alone, would be sufficient warning to patients that Wikipedia is not a reliable source for medical information -- but it never hurts to reiterate that warning.
Lastly, we remind everyone that the FDA advises that you should not stop taking any prescription medication before talking to your doctor.