Information sources and prescribing in the Lisbon region.

Cláudia Furtado, João A Pereira

Abstract


Quality in prescribing and rational use of drugs requires that physicians are kept up to date with developments in the medical literature and have knowledge of newly available drugs. This study aimed to examine, quantitatively, the sources of drug information that are used by physicians and to verify if there are differences according to work setting, namely health centers and hospitals.Cross-sectional descriptive analysis based on the application of a self-administered anonymous questionnaire developed specifically for the study. The 71 physician respondents were drawn from one public hospital (60.9%) and three public health centers (39.1%) in the Lisbon region. Respondents were asked to rate information sources in terms of their importance for prescribing and to report their use of these sources both in their general drug adoption procedures, in the adoption of one of a number of target 'new' drugs and in the evaluation of the therapeutic, pharmacological and economic value of drugs.Commercial sources were cited more frequently than professional or official sources of information in the process of adopting new drugs for prescribing. In evaluating the therapeutic and economic value of a new drug, doctors used primarily studies disseminated by the pharmaceutical industry. Official sources of information were only used widely in case of uncertainties in the dose and dose regime of drugs. The use of sources of information varied with physician's characteristics and with the place of work, with primary care doctors revealing more frequent use of commercial sources.Doctors working in hospitals and health centers use commercial sources above all others. There are, however, some differences according to work setting. In combining scientific information with interpersonal communication, the pharmaceutical industry appears to have a more effective strategy for communicating information to doctors. Health authorities should take this knowledge on board when drawing up strategies for improving the quality of prescribing, thereby assuring that the best quality information is used in clinical practice.

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