Increasingly Accessed for Drug Information, Study Finds Wikipedia Lacking

The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, December 2008 issue, reported on an analysis of Wikipedia’s viability as a source of drug information, since it is an increasingly tapped resource.  For the study, Wikipedia was compared to MDR (Medscape Drug Reference) in eight categories of drug information.

Wikipedia correctly answered 40% drug information questions compared to MDR’s 82.5%.  For dosing data, Wikipedia scored 0% versus 90% with MDR. Seventy-six percent of the answers found in Wikipedia were complete, while MDR was at 95.5%.  Interestingly, no factual errors were found in Wikipedia, whereas Medscape was deemed to have been in error four times.  However, Wikipedia did have almost four times the number of errors of omission.  Also, noteworthy was a marked improvement in Wikipedia answers over a 90-day period.

The study concluded that, “Wikipedia has a more narrow scope, is less complete, and has more errors of omission than the comparator database. Wikipedia may be a useful point of engagement for consumers, but is not authoritative and should only be a supplemental source of drug information.”