Wikipedia weak on drug information

December 4, 2008

Reuters is covering the news that Wikipedia is missing critical information about medicines that it covers. Specifically the following results were found: (researchers) found few factual errors in their evaluation of Wikipedia entries on 80 drugs. But these entries were often missing important information,

andThe researchers compared Wikipedia to Medscape Drug Reference (MDR), a peer-reviewed, free site, by looking for answers to 80 different questions covering eight categories of drug information, for example adverse drug events, dosages, and mechanism of action. While MDR provided answers to 82.5 percent of the questions, Wikipedia could only answer 40 percent.This is an interesting result. The strength of wikipedia has long been it comprehensiveness. You could find reasonably reliable information there on relatively obscure subjects.

The weakness of wikipedia, alternatively, has been its accuracy. So while you might be able to find information on attempts to recreate extinct species, the article might be innacurate in unpredictable ways.There has been a movement within the wikipedia community to improve the overall quality of the articles. This has resulted in many articles being deleted because they are written in a loose, unreferences style that would have been tolerated in earlier versions of the site.Apparently, for drug information, the issue is not accuracy, but a lack of comprehensive information.This has implications for those of us who are intersted in using collaborative, social approaches to Health Information. Depending onwhat you mean by Health 2.0, this may have important implications for that movement.Of course, I have to wonder: how do you code around this type of problem?

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