Family docs, pharmacists test drug database
EDMONTON – Two provinces are about to test a new technology designed to
ensure patients are dispensed the correct drugs and dosage, in the hopes
of reducing medical errors.
Health Canada developed the $8-million system, which merges dozens of
medical resources in one place that can be easily accessed and updated.
The information will be available on a computer and eventually much of
it will be transferred to PDAs, so medical staff can carry it with them.
“When I get a prescription and I have a question, or want to check
something, instead of going to several different resources, I can just
go to one place,” said Jeff Whissell, a pharmacist at the University of
When the name of a drug is entered, all the latest research, dosage
guidelines, warnings and other information will pop up. “There’s new
drug safety information that is not in the textbooks that are out there
because they might only be published once a year at best,” said Janet
Cooper, who is leading the development of the database for the Canadian
Cooper said the database will be useful when new drug advisories are
Right now, that information – such as the recent recall of the arthritis
drug Vioxx – is faxed to hospitals and posted on a website that doctors
and pharmacists must check. There have been 40 drug advisories so far
Cooper said now that kind of information will be all in one place, and
immediately updated as it is released. She also believes the database
can help reduce healthcare costs.
“We spend $20 billion on drugs a year, but that’s not always money well
spent, not always the right drug chosen or a drug that is less expensive
would work just as equally as one costing $100 a month,” Cooper said.
The Alberta pilot project will involve 45 family doctors, 45 pharmacists
and 10 nurse practitioners, and will begin in November. The province was
chosen because of the work it’s done toward using electronic health
The database is also being tested in Nova Scotia.