Sources of medicine information and their reliability evaluated by medicine users



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.

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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.

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Correspondence to Ulla Närhi.

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Närhi, U. Sources of medicine information and their reliability evaluated by medicine users. Pharm World Sci 29, 688–694 (2007).

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