Pharmacy World & Science

, Volume 29, Issue 6, pp 688–694 | Cite as

Sources of medicine information and their reliability evaluated by medicine users

  • Ulla NärhiEmail author
Research Article



To study the medicine users’ sources of medicine information and the perceived reliability of these sources in different age groups.


A computer-aided telephone interview (CATI) to Finnish consumers (n = 1,004). Those respondents (n = 714) who reported using any prescription or self-medication medicines more than once a month were included in the study.


The respondents were interviewed about their use of sources of medicine information during the previous 6 months. The reliability of sources in different age groups was estimated using a 4-point scale: very reliable, somewhat reliable, somewhat unreliable and very unreliable. The respondents also had the option of being unable to make an appraisal.

Main outcome measure

A proportion of respondents reporting using the source, number of mentioned sources and their reliability evaluated by respondents.


About half of the respondents in each age group mentioned two to four sources. The most common sources of information were Patient Information Leaflets (PILs) (74%), doctors (68%) and pharmacists (60%). Next came television (40%), newspapers and magazines (40%), drug advertisements (32%), nurses (28%), drug information leaflets (27%), relatives and friends (24%), medicine guides and books (22%) and the Internet (20%). There was a significant difference between age groups in reporting the Internet as a source of medicine information (15–34-year-old respondents reported the greatest Internet use). The three most reliable sources in every age group were reported to be PILs, doctors and pharmacists. Nurses, drug regulatory authorities, drug information leaflets and medicine guides and books were considered next most reliable. Relatives and friends, television, newspapers and magazines were considered the least reliable. The respondents were most uncertain about the reliability of the Internet, patient organisations and telephone services. There was a significant difference between age groups in evaluating the reliability of telephone services (15–34-year-olds found them more reliable).


Medicine users reported receiving medicine information from many sources. The most commonly used sources were perceived as the most reliable, but their reliability did not seem to depend on age. The counsellors should take into account that patients have many sources of medicine information, with varying validity.


Age groups Consumers Drug Information Finland Health professionals Internet Medicines Patients Reliability Trust 



The author most wishes to thank Anna Karjalainen, M.A., Dr. Anna Koski-Pirilä and Vesa Kiviniemi, Ph.Lic. for their valuable and helpful comments on this article.

Funding. This study was funded by the National Agency for Medicines in Finland.

Conflicts of interest. The Author is working as a Senior Researcher in the National Agency for Medicines, but there are no conflicts of interest.


  1. 1.
    Coulter A. Paternalism or partnership? Patients have grown up—and there’s no going back. BMJ 1999;319:719–20.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Närhi U. Drug information for consumers and patients—a review of the research. Publications of National Agency for Medicines 1/2006, Helsinki, ISBN number 952-5099-91-1. (6 Feb. 2007).
  3. 3.
    Koo MM, Krass I, Aslani P. Factors influencing consumer use of written drug information. Ann Pharmacother 2003;37:259–67.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Melnyk PS, Shevchuk YM, Remillard AJ. Impact of the dial access drug information service on patient outcome. Ann Pharmacother 2000;34:585–92.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Vainio K, Airaksinen M, Väisänen T, Enlund H. Assessing the importance of community pharmacists as providers of drug information. J Appl Ther Res 2004;5:24–9.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Newby DA, Hill SR, Barker BJ, Drew AK, Henry DA. Drug information for consumers: should it be disease or medication specific? Results of a community survey. Aust N Z J Public Health 2001;25:564–70.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Hicks KE, Wogalter MS, Vigilante WJ. Placement of benefits and risks in prescription drug manufacturers’ websites and information source expectations. Drug Inf J 2005;39:267–78.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Internet Usage in Europe. Internet World Stats Usage and Population Statistics. Internet user statistics and population for 52 European countries and regions, 11 Jan. 2007 (6 Feb. 2007).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Coulter A, Entwistle V, Gilbert D. Sharing decisions with patients: is the information good enough? BMJ 1999;318:318–22.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Fukuyama F. Trust. The social virtues and the creation of prosperity. New York: Simon & Schuster, Free press paperbacks; 1996.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Russell MAH, Wilson C, Taylor C, Baker CD. Effect of general practitioners’ advice against smoking. BMJ 1979;2:231–5.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Trachtenberg F, Dugan E. How patients’ trust relates to their involvement in medical care. J Fam Pract 2005;54(4) (6 Feb. 2007).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Närhi U, Airaksinen M, Tanskanen P, Enlund H. The effects of a pharmacy-based intervention on the knowledge and attitudes of asthma patients. Pat Educ Couns 2001;43:171–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Worsley A. Perceived reliability of sources of health information. Health Educ Res 1989;4:367–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    de Almeida MDV, Graca P, Lappalainen R, Giachetti I, Kafatos A, Remaut de Winter AM, Kearney JM. Sources used and trusted by nationally-representative adults in the European Union for information on healthy eating. Eur J Clin Nutr 1997;51:S16–22.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Hesse BW, Nelson DE, Kreps GL, Croyle RT, Arora NK, Rimer BK, Viswanath K. Trust and sources of health information: the impact of the Internet and its implications for health care providers: findings from the first Health Information National Trends Survey. Arch Intern Med 2005;165:2618–24.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Airaksinen M. Customer feedback as a tool for improving pharmacy services in Finland [Dissertation]. Kuopio University Publications A. Pharmaceutical Sciences 25, Kuopio University Printing Office, Kuopio, 1996.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Medicines Act and Decree 395/1987.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    National Agency for Medicines. Medicinal product information, NamWeb search. (6 Feb. 2007).Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Raynor DK, Britten N. Medicine information leaflets fail concordance test. BMJ 2001;322:1541.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Raynor DK, Knapp O, Moody A, Young R. Patient information leaflets—impact of European regulations on safe and effective use of medicines. Pharm J 2005;275:609–11.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Dickinson D, Raynor DK, Duman M. Patient information leaflets for medicines: using consumer testing to determine the most effective design. Patient Educ Couns 2001;43:147–59.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Molnar FJ, Man-Son-Hing M, Dalziel WB, Mitchell SL, Power BE, Byszewski AM, St John P. Assessing the quality of newspaper medical advice columns for elderly readers. CMAJ 1999;161:393–5.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Cassels A, Hughes MA, Cole C, Mintzes B, Lexchin J, McCormack JP. Drugs in news: an analysis of Canadian newspaper coverage of new prescription drugs. CMAJ 2003;168:1133–9.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Johnson TJ, Kaye BK. Cruising is believing? Comparing Internet and traditional sources on media credibility measures. J&MC Quaterly 1998;75:325–40.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Gray NJ, Klein JD, Noyce PR, Sesselberg TS, Cantrill JA. Health information-seeking behaviour in adolescences: the place of the internet. Soc Sci Med 2005;60:1467–78.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Shepperd S, Charnock D, Gann B. Helping patients access high quality health information. BMJ 1999;319:764–6.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Närhi U. Drug information from the drug regulatory authorities to the general public. Pharm Policy Law 2005, 2006;8:31–6.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Planning for Pharmaceutical PoliciesNational Agency for MedicinesHelsinkiFinland

Personalised recommendations