7 Steps to Respond to Drug Information Requests

AUGUST 18, 2016
As you embark on your pharmacy education journey, you’ll be asked a plethora of drug information questions.

Whether you’re on a drug information, community, or hospital rotation, these 7 steps will help you provide the best possible answer to any medication question.

1. Secure requestor demographics.
It’s important to know your audience, as your response technique may differ depending on whether the question comes from a health care professional or a patient. For example, you’d use the word “renal” with a pharmacist and “kidney” with a patient. It’s always best to inquire how the requestor would like the information delivered (eg, phone or fax), as this will help ensure adequate follow-up.

2. Obtain background information.
This is historically the most difficult step because you must act as a detective. Determine whether it’s a general or patient-specific question, and then identify resources the requestor has already consulted to help facilitate the process. For patient-specific questions, it’s important to inquire about pregnancy, weight, and renal function.
3. Determine and categorize the question.
If a pharmacist requests information about whether a patient who’s breastfeeding can take amoxicillin, this would be classified as a lactation question. Various categories may include pregnancy, drug interaction, pharmacy law, or pill identification.

4. Develop a strategy and conduct a search.
First, begin with tertiary literature, which is a compilation of primary literature. This may include text books like Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation or drug information databases like Clinical Pharmacology or Lexicomp. Next, consult your secondary literature resources, which is the path to primary literature. Secondary resources include PubMed and EMBASE, which will enable you to locate primary literature or original research. It’s important to use reputable resources when researching. When using websites, be sure to consult ones ending in .gov or .org.

Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, received her PharmD degree from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Pharmacy in 2006 and completed a 2-year drug information residency. She served as a pharmacy professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy for 6 years, managed the drug information center, and conducted medication therapy management reviews. Dr. Gershman has published research on prescription drug abuse, regulatory issues, and drug information in various scholarly journals. Additionally, she received the Sheriff’s Special Recognition Award for her collaboration with the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Office to prevent prescription drug abuse through a drug disposal program. She has also presented at pharmacist and physician continuing education programs on topics that include medication errors, prescription drug abuse, and legal and regulatory issues. Dr. Gershman can be followed on Twitter @jgershman2