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  • Describe the systematic approach to searching for drug information

  • Explain the differences between primary, secondary, and tertiary literature

  • Discuss strengths and weaknesses of primary, secondary, and tertiary literature

  • Describe common and reputable sources of medical literature

  • Identify and appraise clinical practice guidelines

  • Utilize common bibliographic databases to locate evidence

  • Discuss ways to identify the quality of information found on the Internet


  • Boolean operators

  • Clinical practice guidelines

  • Compendium

  • Cost-benefit analyses

  • Cost-effective analyses

  • Cost-minimization analyses

  • Cost-utility analyses

  • Exploding

  • Focused search

  • Meta-analysis

  • Nonsystematic review

  • Peer review process

  • Pharmacoeconomic studies

  • Pharmacoepidemiology

  • Prescribing information

  • Primary literature

  • Secondary literature

  • Systematic review

  • Tertiary literature

  • Truncation


New drug information is published every day and this enormous amount of accumulated information creates a need for efficiency when searching for information. The provision of drug information is a fundamental responsibility of every practicing pharmacist, and the knowledge and skills to access it effectively and efficiently are essential. The need for efficiency when searching for drug literature is imperative. An organized, logical, and focused approach to the request will enable the clinicians to spend less time searching and more time evaluating the quality of information. This is what ultimately leads to improvements in patient care and patient-oriented outcomes.1 This involves providing comprehensive, accurate information in a timely manner so as to provide high quality patient care.

Evidence-based medicine (EBM) is the foundation for providing high quality medical and pharmaceutical care. Finding appropriate evidence is a critical step in implementing evidence-based practices. This chapter will outline the systematic approach to searching for drug literature, further discuss the importance of efficiency in searching, and how to identify high quality evidence. The different types of drug literature will be reviewed, including examples of each and methods for evaluation of the material and advantages and disadvantages of each type. How to properly select a resource for a specific clinical question will also be addressed. Lastly, a discussion of using the Internet for drug information is included.


A systematic approach is needed to efficiently search drug information for requests received (see Figure 16-1).2–4 This approach includes: obtaining appropriate background information about the requestor and the request, determining and categorizing the question, developing a search strategy, evaluating the information found, formulating a response, and providing appropriate follow-up and documentation.


Systematic Approach to Responding to a Drug Information Request.2–4

Once a drug information request is received, it is important to first obtain the demographics of the requestor such as contact information and practice setting so that an appropriate response can be generated and documented. Next, it is essential for pharmacists to inquire as to whether the request is for a ...

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