THURSDAY, June 26, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Patients frequently turn to digital media for drug information; however, many Wikipedia entries about medications aren’t up-to-date and accurate, according to a perspective piece published in the June 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Thomas J. Hwang, from the Blackstone Group in London, and colleagues explored how messages from regulators related to prescription medicines are diffused digitally by examining Google searches and Wikipedia pages 60 days before and after the announcement issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (Jan. 1, 2011, through Dec. 31, 2012).

The researchers identified safety warnings for 22 prescription drugs. In total, these drugs triggered 13 million searches on Google and five million Wikipedia page views annually during the study period. There was an average 82 percent increase in Google searches for the drugs during the week after the FDA announcement and a 175 percent increase in views of Wikipedia pages for the drugs on the day of the announcement, compared to baseline trends. Wikipedia pages pertaining to the drugs with new safety warnings were updated 41 percent of the time within two weeks after the warning was issued.

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“Given the frequency with which patients seek information on the Internet, taking advantage of electronic media appears to be a promising means for the FDA to ensure that patients have ready access to accurate and comprehensive information, including timely updates pertaining to drug-safety issues,” the authors write.

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