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Do you trust your Drug Information Source?

By Dominick Albano, Pharm.D., MBA and Jennifer Riggins, Pharm.D., FDIA

I think we can all agree that pharmacists play a critical role in the safe and effective use of medications. From interacting and engaging with the patient as part of the care team to dispensing the medication and educating the patient on its appropriate use, pharmacists are essential to comprehensive medication management and getting the medicines right. As important, is the pharmacists’ access to comprehensive, non-biased, evidence-based information to aid the pharmacist in making the right clinical decisions.

Pharmaceutical companies play a role in not only generating, but also evaluating, summarizing, and disseminating the scientific evidence used to make clinical decisions. Specific departments within pharmaceutical companies such as Medical Information (MI) and Scientific Communications transform the scientific data generated from clinical trials into peer-reviewed published literature as well as digestible summaries that answer specific questions posed by health care professionals. MI departments provide answers to HCPs’ questions as quickly and efficiently as possible to aid the HCP in decision making.

These MI departments play a significant role in supporting the information needs of the medical community, patients, and caregivers. A 2021 US benchmark survey conducted by phactMITM, a non-profit organization established by drug information experts across the pharmaceutical industry, showed that pharmaceutical medical (drug) information organizations (n=33) responded to over 1.9M unsolicited medical information requests from healthcare professionals, patients, and caregivers1. Approximately 20% or 380,000 of these requests were from pharmacists.

MI teams follow a published Code of Practice developed and maintained by phactMI. The Code of Practice is comprised of three core elements, Clinical and Pharmaceutical Expertise, Scientific Balance of Medical Responses, and Quality Standards – all important features of an unbiased, accurate, and clinically-relevant answer. MI professionals are scientific and healthcare professionals, typically pharmacists, and are trained in drug information/MI sciences such as literature searching and evaluation, medical writing, and information synthesis. These MI professionals take great care in providing accurate, evidence-based responses that provide a complete picture of the data available (both positive and negative) on a given topic. Responses to unsolicited inquiries from HCPs are scientifically balanced, accurate, truthful, and free of commercial bias.

In 2021, Albano et al.2, published on “The Medical Information Scientific Process: Define, Research, Evaluate, Synthesize, and Share” or otherwise known as the DRESS process. DRESS is an important part of Medical Information Science skills and is rooted in the scientific process.

“Stated simply, the scientific method starts with a question, followed by experimentation, analysis/interpretation, and publication or communication of results3. Similarly, answering an MI inquiry starts with understanding the question, followed by obtaining relevant evidence to answer that question, then critically appraising or evaluating the evidence, and finally communicating an answer in writing or verbally.”

MI professionals/scientists use the DRESS approach to respond to inquiries from healthcare professionals to ensure the right information is provided to the right person at the right time to inform clinical decision-making.

At phactMI, one of our primary goals is to make it easier for health care professionals and specifically pharmacists to access this unbiased, evidence-based information so that the care team can be equipped to provide comprehensive medication management services to patients who need it when they need it. Therefore, phactMI created the Drug Information Database, a “one stop shop” that enables users to search across manufacturers to access these answers to HCPs questions more quickly and conveniently. And, thereby, to help Get the Medicines Right!

1 Data on File. phactMI.

2 Albano, D., Pragga, F., Rai, R. et al. The Medical Information Scientific Process: Define, Research, Evaluate, Synthesize, and Share (DRESS). Ther Innov Regul Sci 56, 405–414 (2022).

3 Britanica TEoE. Scientific method: Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed 27 April 2021.

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