How Trustworthy Is WebMD for Info on Drugs & Medications?
The ability to look up information about medications in mere seconds is empowering, with many Americans taking full advantage of the internet to put health information in their hands. Research suggests that somewhere around 80% of people use the internet to learn about health-related topics, with specific diseases and treatments among the top information people search for.
Among the websites that people use, WebMD is one of the most popular. Around 75 million Americans use WebMD at least once a month, with 49 million of those users visiting the site on their mobile devices. Even with WebMD’s popularity, you may be wondering how trustworthy its drug and medication information is. Use this guide to decide for yourself.
About WebMD's Drug and Medication Info
WebMD's drug and medication center gives users information that’s easily accessible and understandable. It works with doctors and health experts. There's a searchable database that lets you search by medication name, search by condition or browse drugs and medications alphabetically. It also provides information on vitamins and supplements and includes links to relevant articles.
The drug and medication center offers a drug interaction checker, which allows you to enter the names of two or more medications to see if there are any interactions you need to watch for. It works for prescriptions, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and supplements. If you want to manage the medicine that you or a family member regularly takes, WebMD also has My Medicine, a tool that lets you keep track of dosage information and medication schedules, among other functions.
WebMD's Editorial Policy and Accreditation
A website's editorial policy can tell you a lot about the responsibility the organization takes for the information it distributes. In its policy, WebMD assures its readers that its mission "is to bring you the most objective, trustworthy and accurate health information." To that end, the editors strive to produce content that lives up to the website's standard of editorial integrity.
Editors corroborate information using multiple sources. Additionally, the editorial policy stipulates that the editorial staff is kept "separate and distinct" from advertising staff. This step is taken to ensure that advertisers won't have sway over the content that the website produces.
WebMD is accredited by the Utilization Review Accreditation Commission (URAC), a nonprofit organization that promotes quality health information. To earn that distinction, it had to meet key criteria, including maintaining strict privacy and security, publishing closely reviewed and credible information and being transparent about its sources and editorial policy.
The site has also garnered recognition for its reference materials and other articles. Awards include Folio awards, Medical Marketing & Media (MM&M) awards and Webby awards.
What to Look for When Searching for Reliable Drug Info
U.S. Pharmacist recommends evaluating any website you're considering using for information by asking key questions. For example, who runs it? Check out the "About Us" section and use caution when you're getting information from an organization that's going to profit from what it’s telling you. Other factors to keep in mind are the purpose of the site (which should be to educate you, not to market to you), credentials of the people putting the information out there and whether the information is current.
WebMD isn't the only source available. Other possible resources to consider include the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health Medline Plus, National Library of Medicine and United States Pharmacopeia.
Critics may question some aspects of the information that WebMD provides. For example, the symptom checker can leave internet users convinced that a minor symptom is a sign of a more severe health condition. In addition, past research shows that symptom checkers, including WebMD and other websites, aren't always 100% accurate.
According to its editorial policy, WebMD makes every effort to provide factual, correct and current information about drugs and medications, in addition to other health-related issues. It's a good starting point for researching medications, supplements or conditions. With that said, it's not a replacement for speaking with a doctor or pharmacist to get answers to your questions.