5 Free Online Drug Information Resources for a Pharmacist's Toolbox

DECEMBER 16, 2016
Drug information references play an important role in pharmacy practice. In fact, many state boards of pharmacy require that pharmacies maintain current drug information references. Pharmacy practice settings will usually provide at least one resource for pharmacists to utilize when answering drug information questions. This may include paid resources such as Lexi-Comp, Clinical Pharmacology, or Facts & Comparisons. These are all great resources, but there are many free reputable references available that provide excellent drug information. Check out these 5 online resources to add to your drug information toolbox!
  1. DailyMed
DailyMed is a one-stop-shop that contains more than 92,000 drug listings including US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved package inserts. The package insert is also linked to ClinicalTrials.gov, which provides data on completed and ongoing studies. Additionally, you can report adverse events to the FDA’s MedWatch program. If you need to identify a medication, then you can do so through the ID tool known as Pillbox. 
  1. MedlinePlus
MedlinePlus is a great consumer health information resource published by the National Library of Medicine and available both in English and Spanish languages. This is a great website to use for patient counseling. MedlinePlus contains information on prescription and over-the-counter medications written in lay language. Herbal product information is also available through the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Let patients know about this resource so that they can become more knowledgeable about their medications. MedlinePlus also contains medication safety alerts from the FDA and health videos.
  1. FDA
The FDA website contains a plethora of information that will help keep you up-to-date.  You can also register to receive updates on new medication approvals and drug recalls. Check out the newly designed Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations, also known as the Orange Book. It has been updated to enable you to search the resource more efficiently. The Orange Book shows products that are therapeutically equivalent for generic drug substitution. You can also search for patent information to have a better idea of when generic drugs will be available for specific brand products. There is also a new app called the Orange Book Express allowing you to search easily from your Apple or Android device.
 
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The CDC is the go to resource for vaccine information. Provide parents with childhood vaccine charts.  Explore the travel health section for recommended vaccines and health alerts. You can search by destination and provide patients with the most up-to-date information. The monthly published Vitalsigns report provides pertinent information on a variety of health topics including HIV and injection drug use, prescription drug abuse, and food safety.
 
  1. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
The DEA website provides up-to-date information on controlled substances that will help you stay current with federal laws and regulations. It includes resources for drug disposal and the latest reports such as the 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment. This report demonstrated that fentanyl-related overdose deaths are rising.  Check out the facts sheets on various controlled substances and drugs of concern including narcotics, stimulants, and bath salts.  The Pharmacist’s Manual is also available through the DEA website. This outlines the Federal Controlled Substances Act and how it affects the pharmacy practice setting. Keep in mind that it was last updated in 2010, so new laws and regulations may not be reflected in the manual. You can also access all of the current controlled substance laws and regulations through the DEA website. The Question and Answers tab provides valuable information on various controlled substance matters including prescription drug monitoring programs, DEA Form 222, and electronic prescriptions.
 
The best of luck on your drug information quest!

Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, received her PharmD degree from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Pharmacy in 2006 and completed a 2-year drug information residency. She served as a pharmacy professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy for 6 years, managed the drug information center, and conducted medication therapy management reviews. Dr. Gershman has published research on prescription drug abuse, regulatory issues, and drug information in various scholarly journals. Additionally, she received the Sheriff’s Special Recognition Award for her collaboration with the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Office to prevent prescription drug abuse through a drug disposal program. She has also presented at pharmacist and physician continuing education programs on topics that include medication errors, prescription drug abuse, and legal and regulatory issues. Dr. Gershman can be followed on Twitter @jgershman2
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