Four tips for evaluating the reliability of pharmaceutical information

The volume of pharmaceutical information has grown dramatically in recent decades. Just a few decades ago there was very little information available in writing and no digital information at all. Nowadays, it is possible to find information not only in books but also on the internet, where anyone can set up a website, and no one monitors the accuracy of the information.

This highlights the importance of critical thinking in modern society, what with the high volume of available information and its inconsistency. Drug-related information is often considered very important and very personal, as it concerns our own health and wellbeing. Moreover, understanding your own medication is one of the most important factors in the success of treatment. So, how can you tell which sources of information are reliable?

 

Tip 1: Awareness of our personal views and feelings helps to combat misinformation

People tend to trust information that reinforces their existing views of the world and reject information that questions them. It is important to consider whether the information is really accurate or whether you believe it simply because you want to believe it. Invoking emotions is one of the most effective ways to attract people's attention, and it is an often-used tool in connection with fake news and other misleading material.

 

Tip 2: The goals of the author and the source of pharmaceutical information have a significant impact on reliability

When evaluating the reliability of information sources, it is worth finding out who is producing it. The absence of information on authors or publishers puts trustworthiness into question. In general, information created by government agencies and expert organisations can be regarded as relatively independent and reliable. Information produced by private persons or non-profit organisations may be influenced by hidden ideologies and companies may have commercial goals. Fake news and conspiracy theories are often global phenomena that are modified to fit local needs. It is therefore essential to consider why the information has been produced and whether it is based on research data. The reliability of a website is also increased by the contact information that it provides and whether there is appropriate reference information.

 

Tip 3: Up-to-date pharmaceutical information, the permanence of the website and the accuracy of texts increase reliability

Because pharmaceutical information changes as new research data becomes available, attention should be paid to when the information was published or updated. In order to ensure that the information is up to date, its sources must be regularly updated. Moreover, information provided by websites that are permanent and generally accessible is more reliable. Accuracy, appropriateness and clarity can also be considered the earmarks of a reliable text. Conflicting information and multiple writing errors may indicate unreliable information.

 

Tip 4: The Lääkeopas guide and the Rokotustieto.fi website provide reliable and clear information

People are increasingly using the internet to find information about drugs when they start new medication, suspect adverse effects, and on the basis of the news in the media. People also need information when faced with new threats, such as pandemics. Incorrect or obsolete information can be misleading and even prevent people from taking important medications and vaccines. It is therefore important to seek information from reliable sources such as the Lääkeopas drug guide or the Rokotustieto.fi site maintained by the Pharmaceutical Information Centre.

The information in the guide is based on the official summaries of product characteristics and package information leaflets and its database is updated twice a month. The purpose of the guide is to provide essential information on the use and storage of medicines in a concise and clear form for everyone interested in medicines. The Rokotustieto.fi website offers reliable and easy to understand information on vaccines and has received the Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea’s recognition for reliable pharmaceutical information. To ensure that the information is up to date, we regularly produce new information on vaccinations for the website and update the website's content.