An important part of sensible pharmacotherapy is easy access to reliable, understandable information on pharmaceuticals. Finns increasingly go online for pharmaceutical information.
According to a survey by the Pharmaceutical Information Network*, Finns search for pharmaceutical information especially when they start using a new drug or encounter a suspected adverse effect. People also search for information when they have questions that arise from the content of the packaging leaflet or when news about pharmaceuticals appear in the media. Almost all respondents found information on drugs online in their mother tongue (90–95% of the respondents).
All respondents had searched for pharmaceutical information online at least once a month. The respondents say that the online sources that meet their needs best are www.terveyskirjasto.fi, authorities’ websites and www.laakeinfo.fi.
Finns evaluate the reliability of pharmaceutical information carefully
The primary criteria for evaluating the value of pharmaceutical information were the reliability of the source, accessibility, ease of use, understandability of the content and the clarity of the site layout. Another positive feature was that the source is maintained by an authority.
79% of the respondents search for information from several different online sources to compare the reliability of the information or to reach certainty or a gain more comprehensive picture of the topic. If different online sources provided conflicting information, 47% of the respondents turned to another source, and 30% became worried, but the worry did not affect their use of the drug. 30% decided to trust a single source and ignore the information in other sources, whereas 14% decided not to use the drug.
The respondents wanted to be able to find visual information online, such as pictures of pharmaceutical preparations and drug packages. The preferred formats of information were patient instructions, online databases, Q&A forums for health care professionals and smartphone applications.
*The survey was carried out in 2017. A total of 1020 people responded to the survey. 85% of the respondents had an illness diagnosed by a physician that required regular medication. The survey was commissioned by the Drug User Workgroup of the National Pharmaceutical Information Network. The Pharmaceutical Information Centre was responsible for the technical implementation of the survey.