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The internet and the World Wide Web have changed the ways that we function. As technologies grow and adapt, there is a huge potential for the internet to affect drug research and development, as well as many other aspects of clinical pharmacology. We review some of the areas of interest to date and discuss some of the potential areas in which internet-based technology can be exploited.

Information retrieval from the web by health-care professionals is common, and bringing evidence-based medicine to the bedside affects the care of patients.

As a primary research tool the web can provide a vast array of information in generating new ideas or exploring previous research findings. This has facilitated systematic reviewing, for example. The content of the web has become a subject of research in its own right.

The web is also widely used as a research facilitator, including enhancement of communication between collaborators, provision of online research tools (such as questionnaires, management of large scale multicentre trials, registration of clinical trials) and distribution of information.

Problems include information overload, ignorance of early data that are not indexed in databases, difficulties in keeping web sites up to date and assessing the validity of information retrieved. Some web-based activities are viewed with suspicion, including analysis by pharmaceutical companies of drug information to facilitate direct-to-consumer advertising of novel pharmaceuticals.

Use of these technologies will continue to expand in often unexpected ways. Clinical pharmacologists must embrace internet technology and include it as a key priority in their research agenda.