Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

A Comparison of the Content and Primary Literature Support for Online Medication Information Provided by Lexicomp and Wikipedia

Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

A Comparison of the Content and Primary Literature Support for Online Medication Information Provided by Lexicomp and Wikipedia

Article excerpt


In 2006, 80% of American Internet users were reported to have used the Internet to search for health topics [1]. Of those who used the Internet, 53% indicated that the information they gained during their health information searches impacted their care for themselves or care for someone else. Since this time, the Internet has gained over 2 billion users globally [2]. In today's Web 2.0 online environment, characterized by active participation and collaboration [3], clinicians and patients are faced with a wide array of information sources that include sources based on online collaboration and conventional sources generated by experts.

Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that is written and edited continuously by its users [4]. Studies have reported the use of Wikipedia as a medication information resource that both physicians and pharmacists access [5-7]. Another study found that Wikipedia was the first search result for approximately 80% of searches for generic name medication on Bing, Google Canada, and Yahoo [8]. As the 7th most visited site on the web [9], Wikipedia is also a common source of health information for consumers. In a study evaluating health index keywords, Wikipedia appeared in the top 10 results for 71%-85% of the keywords and search engines tested [10].

Previous studies have assessed the completeness, accuracy, and reference sources used in Wikipedia articles that provide health and medication information [11-20]. One study of ten mental health topics found the information in Wikipedia to be roughly equivalent to that provided by centrally controlled websites, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and a psychiatry textbook [17], and another study suggested that drug information provided on Wikipedia was sufficiently accurate and comprehensive to be used for undergraduate medical education [20]. However, others have found information on Wikipedia to be incomplete and/or inaccurate when compared with peer-reviewed sources [11, 14, 16, 21]. To determine the origin of medication information found on Wikipedia, a previous study evaluated the references used in Wikipedia entries for statin medications and reported that Wikipedia most commonly cited peer-reviewed journals [13].

The desired amount of detail provided by online medication information varies by user group. For clinicians, paid online drug information compendiums such as Lexicomp provide users with comprehensive product monographs. In a study of commonly used drug information databases, Lexicomp received the top quality and performance scores and was the most preferred database of a group of practicing pharmacists [22].

While previous studies have highlighted the incompleteness of Wikipedia articles and compared the quality and quantity of references used in drug-related Wikipedia articles to those provided in Lexicomp pages, research to date has not compared the extent to which the discrepant items in each article are supported by primary, peer-reviewed literature [12, 13, 21]. Discrepant items are important because they mean that people would get different information depending on the source that they consulted. The authors compared the medication information content that Wikipedia and Lexicomp provided for five commonly prescribed medications. The accuracy of adverse reactions that were listed in either Lexicomp or Wikipedia (but not both) was then assessed through a literature search to determine if support for the adverse reaction information existed in the primary, peer-reviewed literature.


We identified a list of the most frequently prescribed medications in Canada from national-level prescribing data provided by IMS Health Canada, and five of the six most frequently prescribed medications were used in this investigation. The investigated medications were levothyroxine (a thyroid hormone replacement), atorvastatin (a cholesterol-lowering agent), pantoprazole (used to reduce gastric acidity), acetylsalicylic acid (an anti-inflammatory and platelet-inhibiting agent), and metformin (an oral hypoglycemic agent used in diabetes mellitus). …

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