Scope, Completeness, and Accuracy of Drug Information in Wikipedia

Pharmacy Practice, College of Pharmacy-West Palm Beach, Nova Southeastern University, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410, USA.
Annals of Pharmacotherapy (Impact Factor: 2.92). 11/2008; 42(12):1814-21. DOI: 10.1345/aph.1L474
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT With the advent of Web 2.0 technologies, user-edited online resources such as Wikipedia are increasingly tapped for information. However, there is little research on the quality of health information found in Wikipedia.
To compare the scope, completeness, and accuracy of drug information in Wikipedia with that of a free, online, traditionally edited database (Medscape Drug Reference [MDR]).
Wikipedia and MDR were assessed on 8 categories of drug information. Questions were constructed and answers were verified with authoritative resources. Wikipedia and MDR were evaluated according to scope (breadth of coverage) and completeness. Accuracy was tracked by factual errors and errors of omission. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the components. Fisher's exact test was used to compare scope and paired Student's t-test was used to compare current results in Wikipedia with entries 90 days prior to the current access.
Wikipedia was able to answer significantly fewer drug information questions (40.0%) compared with MDR (82.5%; p < 0.001). Wikipedia performed poorly regarding information on dosing, with a score of 0% versus the MDR score of 90.0%. Answers found in Wikipedia were 76.0% complete, while MDR provided answers that were 95.5% complete; overall, Wikipedia answers were less complete than those in Medscape (p < 0.001). No factual errors were found in Wikipedia, whereas 4 answers in Medscape conflicted with the answer key; errors of omission were higher in Wikipedia (n = 48) than in MDR (n = 14). There was a marked improvement in Wikipedia over time, as current entries were superior to those 90 days prior (p = 0.024).
Wikipedia has a more narrow scope, is less complete, and has more errors of omission than the comparator database. Wikipedia may be a useful point of engagement for consumers, but is not authoritative and should only be a supplemental source of drug information.

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    • "The Wikipedia corpus contains a vast category graph on top of its articles and a study [12] shows that Wikipedia is the most sought online resource for basic medical information. It is, however, determined [3] to be only a good starting point and that is exactly how we use Wikipedia in our framework. Note that for purely medical purposes recent community efforts like MedPedia 3 can also be used. "
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    • "Accordingly, some of Wikipedia's popularity may result simply from its top position in search engine rakings, rather than the qualities of its content per se (Hargittai et al. 2010). 3 Most research about Wikipedia has focused on evaluating the accuracy of its content (Chesney 2006; Clauson et al. 2008; Giles 2005) or the patterns of editing on the site (Bryant et al. 2005; Burke & Kraut 2008; Kittur et al. 2007; Kittur & Kraut 2008; Ortega et al. 2008), with very little research concentrating on users who visit the site but do not edit articles, despite the fact that they make up the biggest portion of the site's visitors. In 2008, Wikipedia had over 684 million visitors less than two per cent of whom were active contributors with many of the contributions being made by a very small fraction of that two per cent (Ortega et al. 2008), suggesting that a tiny portion of annual users edit Wikipedia regularly. "
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    • "Similarly, in [11] a research team analyzed 80 Wikipedia articles on drugs. They found that the articles often missed important information and a small number of factual errors. "
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