Wikipedia is reportedly the most frequently consulted online health care resource globally, but it is not reliably updated after the FDA issues safety warnings on drugs.

Based on a sample of 22 prescription medications subject to a drug-safety communication between 2011-2012, FDA safety warnings were associated with an 82% increase, on average, in Google searches for the drugs during the week after the announcement and a 175% increase in views of Wikipedia pages for the drugs on the day of the announcement, as compared with baseline trends. In addition, 41% of Wikipedia pages pertaining to the drugs with new safety warnings were updated within 2 weeks after the warning was issued with information provided in the FDA announcements. However, 23% of Wikipedia pages were updated more than 2 weeks after the FDA warning was issued (average, 42 days), and 36% of pages remained unchanged more than 1 year later. The Wikipedia pages for drugs that were intended for treatment of highly prevalent diseases (affecting more than 1 million people in the United States) were more likely to be updated quickly (58% were updated within 2 weeks) than were those for drugs designed to treat less-prevalent conditions (20% were updated within 2 weeks, P=0.03).

Public health officials have historically focused on printed drug labels and “Dear Health Care Provider” letters from the FDA, but new technologies offer the opportunity to reach patients and physicians more efficiently and effectively. The FDA and others can take some steps to improve the dissemination of essential drug information.

(cite: Hwang TJ, Bourgeois FT, Seeger JD. Drug safety in the digital age. N Engl J Med 2014; 370(26): 2460-2462.)