- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 18, 2000

A recent on-line survey by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) reveals that three out of four World Wide Web surfers search for health information and almost half look for specific data about prescription medications.

With this in mind, the ASHP has introduced a new Web site offering up-to-the-minute news on pharmaceuticals and an industrial-strength database to help explain a wide range of drugs.

SafeMedication.com

Site address: www.safemedication.com

Creator:

The ASHP, a national professional association in Bethesda, represents 30,000 pharmacists who practice in hospitals, health maintenance organizations, long-term care facilities, home care and other components of health care systems.

Creator quotable:

"We created SafeMedication.com because our research reveals that many Americans are not satisfied with the information they receive with their prescription medications," says Bruce E. Scott, ASHP president. "Because today's medicines are so complex and powerful, patients need reliable, easy-to-use resources more than ever. Who better to provide that information than pharmacists who work in hospitals and health systems?"

Word from the Webwise:

The site's bare-bones approach to content follows its dictum of "Pharmacists helping people make the best use of their medication" by avoiding overwhelming visitors who just need immediate information on a particular pharmaceutical.

The sparse front page offers three sections: "Medications and You," "News You Can Use" and "About Us." Plopped right in the middle of the document is an entry box for searches using the MedMaster Database.

This voluminous resource is based on ASHP's medication teaching manual, the Guide to Patient Drug Information, a publication originally developed for patient-education programs conducted by health care professionals. The manual features more than 700 drugs, including brand names and generic.

Each entry begins with a phonetic pronunciation and continues with why the medication is prescribed, how it should be used, potential side effects, warning signs of adverse reactions, special precautions, dietary instructions, information on what to do if a dose is missed and storage directions.

The ASHP wisely points out that the data should be used to supplement information provided by one's physician and the pharmacist who dispenses the prescriptions. Always consult with a pharmacist or physician directly if any questions arise.

A recent scare with my 7-month-old might have been avoided if my wife and I had quickly pulled up the entry for amoxicillin. I learned that the penicillinlike antibiotic treats certain infections (such as my son's ear problem) and that adverse reactions include hives. Knowing this when my little guy broke out with a blister-type rash would have helped calm my wife before the pediatrician called back.

Stop by "Medications and You" for nice primers on everything from preventing medication errors to using antibiotics wisely to a 35-page Adobe Acrobat document on dealing with nausea during cancer treatments.

Finally, "News You Can Use" features articles written by ASHP staff members and culled from other reliable sources, such as the Food and Drug Administration. One article written by the news director for ASHP, Cheryl Thompson, was about the drug sulindac sulfone and how it can ignore normal cells but activate an enzyme in cancerous cells, causing them to die.

Ease of use:

With the lack of content on the site "News You Can Use" offered a paltry 10 articles I had no problem jumping around the pages. Those of us without a spelling-bee championship, however, may be in a bit of trouble with MedMaster.

To pull up a medication, viewers must know the name of the medication or something reasonably close. If all I have is the scribbles of a doctor's prescription, I'm in trouble. Also, viewers should be able to enter the word "antibiotic" and get more results than an entry on hydrocortisone.

The site would be improved with the addition of an "Ask the Pharmacist" section.

Don't miss:

Be a cyber-sneak and jump over to the main ASHP site (www.ashp.org) through a story link in the "News You Can Use" section. There, viewers will find a ton of very clinical and specific news releases to keep them apprised of the latest breakthroughs and testing in the pharmaceutical industry.

Information grade: B- for content, A- for drug database

Have a cool site about science or health for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail to joseph@twtmail.com.

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