This week in Washington, D.C. saw the public hearings on promotion of FDA-regulated medical products using the internet and social media tools. Drugs.com got a mention and a reference or two by one of the speakers. People heard, wrote, tweeted, blogged, reported and within minutes the quote had gone viral on the internet.
The problem is, what got reported wasn’t entirely true. Press releases were issued that spoke of “user-edited content on sites such as Drugs.com” and “inaccurate or incomplete information”, “misinformation or unbalanced information,” and “lack of consistency about the quality of information on websites like Wikipedia and Drugs.com.”
Firstly, to set the record straight, there is no user-edited drug information content on Drugs.com. Period. Our drug information content is derived from a number of well-respected medical publishers including Cerner Multum, Thomson Reuters – Micromedex, Physicians’ Desk Reference, Wolters Kluwer Health and the FDA. A big thank you to the editor who quickly recognized and corrected this erroneous claim.
Secondly, “inaccurate or incomplete information” – such a sweeping statement based on one contentious example. The example on which this statement is based is the Consumer Information page on the cholesterol-lowering drug Vytorin. The speaker quoted the information on Drugs.com as being incomplete because we hadn’t included the phrase “Vytorin has not been shown to reduce heart attacks or strokes more than Zocor alone” on our consumer information page.
The speaker appeared to be unaware that we did have this statement included in the Vytorin information page for health professionals.
The purpose of our Consumer Information is to ensure the safe and effective use of medicines. Could this statement encourage a patient to cease taking Vytorin without consulting their healthcare professional?
We have concluded that this statement was more appropriate for the prescribing information – it is aimed at the health professional making the decision about the most appropriate therapy.
We pride ourselves on being a patient-centric website. Our consumer information is designed for consumers. It is designed to be easy-to-read and easy-to-understand. Professional information is available as a handy link when more information is required.
Risks and benefits all come together in what we hope is the best unbiased consumer drug information there is on the internet. As pharmacists, we are acutely aware of the need for this information to be balanced to ensure patient compliance. Too many perceived risks, and the patient might not take the medicine that may save their life.
So does this statement belong on the Vytorin consumer drug information page? The debate continues but we have added it for now.