Prescribers, dispensers, and users of medicines all require information on medicines. The sources of this information can be classified as primary (articles or papers on original research), secondary (reviews of the primary literature), and tertiary (formulary manuals, standard treatment manuals, textbooks, and review articles, or pharmaceutical product information approved by drug regulatory agencies). Promotional literature has limited utility because it provides biased information designed to promote sales of commercial products.
The skills required to evaluate medicine information sources can be provided by a medicine information center (MIC); ideally, every country should have one. An MIC can be established in an accessible hospital or university department. The center should provide information proactively as well as respond to queries. The center requires trained staff with access to both text and computer information sources.
MIC activities include sending staff out to provide information; developing, producing, and disseminating a drug bulletin based on modern communication principles; and teaching.
Funding the center may be difficult, but diversified funding should be sought whenever possible. Funding from pharmaceutical companies may appear to affect the center’s impartiality and should generally be used only for capital projects. Other problems that may affect the center include -
- Inadequate information sources
- Lack of acceptance
- Inadequate communication systems
- Lack of political will to establish or sustain the center