Drug questions are among the most frequently asked medical questions in the medical, public, and academic libraries. Patients want to understand the drugs being prescribed to them. Physicians need information on new drugs and may also ask for confirmation of information they receive from the drug representatives. Drugs are complicated by the variety of generic and product names.
The University of Washington Health Sciences Libraries provides an excellent tutorial that gives background information about selected web-based drug information resources that can be used to answer questions about drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter as well as dietary supplements and herbals. The site also describes how to create effective strategies for seeking information about drugs. That tutorial can be found by clicking the link below:
The Specialized Information Services (SIS) Division of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) is responsible for information resources and services in toxicology, environmental health, chemistry, HIV/AIDS, and specialized topics in minority health.
NLM's drug databases and resources are geared to the librarian, physician, researcher and the consumer.
The following chemical and drug databases are the primary NLM databases developed for librarians and consumers. These should be the first choice for drug information.
TOXNET is the Gateway for NLM toxicology information and includes factual full text drug information and bibliographic information in various databases.
It can be accessed by clicking on the following link:
A couple of the database that can be found on TOXNET are TOXLINE and ChemIDplus
TOXLINE is located on the TOXNET search interface. TOXLINE is a bibliographic database with scholarly journal articles and abstracts. TOXLINE does not contain full-text articles. Articles are available from the Interlibrary Loan system called DOCLINE. The articles are of the same high quality as PubMed, but the articles are from different journals than those indexed in PubMed.
ChemIDplus includes a full text database on drugs and chemicals and contains information on specific drugs. When you search ChemIDplus, there will be one "hit" for each drug. Each record describes one drug in detail. There are no journal articles like you find in TOXLINE, just information on drugs, the drug structure, and many other interesting facts. Try out the new Advanced ChemIDplus Advanced Search to search for chemical structure, property and toxicity.
Two of the most entertaining and appealing databases, geared to consumers and educators are TOX TOWN and TOX MYSTERY. Turn on your sound for full effect as you mouse over objects in these databases. Follow the kitty through the house looking for toxic material. These databases have very high consumer appeal.
Other NLM Databases with Drug Information
MEDLINEplus provides consumer health drug information. See Drugs and Supplements on the left sidebar.
PubMed provides drug information. In the MeSH Database search under a specific medical condition or disease term. In the subsequent screen scroll down to see "Subheadings" such as "drug therapy" and combine the subheadings with the MeSH terms for the condition or diseases to locate articles on drug therapy.
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) NLM Drug Information Portal provides health care professionals, researchers, and the public with a gateway to current and accurate drug information from NLM and other key government agencies. More than 12,000 drugs are available for searching. The search interface requires only a drug name; a spellchecker is provided. Information buttons and balloon pop-ups guide the user by providing helpful hints or a description of the resource and links to the source website. Links to the following resources contribute to the search results: MedlinePlus, AIDSinfo, MEDLINE/PubMed, LactMed, HSDB, Dietary Supplements Labels Database, TOXLINE, DailyMed, ClinicalTrials.gov, PubChem, NIAID Anti-HIV/OI Database, ChemIDplus, Drugs@FDA, Drug Enforcement Agency, and USA.gov.
Internet Consumer Health Sites Provide Drug Information
Internet sites for medical information are almost always biased since much of what you find on the web is put on the Internet by the drug companies. Non-librarians often find it hard to identify the source of drug information - in other words, who wrote and sponsored the Internet site - so consumers need to be steered to the quality drug databases. A huge mass of unreliable, (understatement intended) drug information is on the web. The drug companies have been very diligent to assure that the search engines hit the drug company sites with the intent to sell their pharmaceuticals. Merck's drug products frequently appear in medical searches from a Google search. Many times it is hard to identify that it is a Merck (or other drug company) sponsored site. Might the information on the Merck drug site be biased toward the Merck drugs? Is that a problem? Answer: It depends on what you are searching and what type of answer you seek.
Questions to consider when searching drug databases:
What databases are the best for late breaking news about a drug?
What sources are best for consumer information on drugs?
For general background information on drugs?
For the generic or the product name of a drug?