As you embark on your pharmacy education journey, you’ll be asked a plethora of drug information questions.

Whether you’re on a drug information, community, or hospital rotation, these 7 steps will help you provide the best possible answer to any medication question.

1. Secure requestor demographics.
It’s important to know your audience, as your response technique may differ depending on whether the question comes from a health care professional or a patient. For example, you’d use the word “renal” with a pharmacist and “kidney” with a patient. It’s always best to inquire how the requestor would like the information delivered (eg, phone or fax), as this will help ensure adequate follow-up.

2. Obtain background information.
This is historically the most difficult step because you must act as a detective. Determine whether it’s a general or patient-specific question, and then identify resources the requestor has already consulted to help facilitate the process. For patient-specific questions, it’s important to inquire about pregnancy, weight, and renal function.
 
3. Determine and categorize the question.
If a pharmacist requests information about whether a patient who’s breastfeeding can take amoxicillin, this would be classified as a lactation question. Various categories may include pregnancy, drug interaction, pharmacy law, or pill identification.

4. Develop a strategy and conduct a search.
First, begin with tertiary literature, which is a compilation of primary literature. This may include text books like Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation or drug information databases like Clinical Pharmacology or Lexicomp. Next, consult your secondary literature resources, which is the path to primary literature. Secondary resources include PubMed and EMBASE, which will enable you to locate primary literature or original research. It’s important to use reputable resources when researching. When using websites, be sure to consult ones ending in .gov or .org.
5. Perform evaluation, analysis, and synthesis.
Objectively critique all of the information you retrieve from your comprehensive literature search. Also, consider the background information of your question. Consult with pharmacists and other health care professionals with expertise in your specific drug information question. 

6. Formulate and provide a response.
Inform the requestor when one course of action is more desirable. Present competing viewpoints and considerations. Also, describe your evaluation of the research. Written responses should always be concise and fully referenced.

7. Conduct follow-up and documentation.
Following up is important for ensuring the information was received. Always document your drug information questions so you can refer back to them. You’ll likely see the same question in the future, and this well help serve as a reference point.

When I managed a drug information center, I’d always review these 7 steps with students on my rotation. These tips will enable you to become confident in answering drug information questions and prepare you for your pharmacy career.