As a pharmacist, staying in touch with medical research is of paramount importance to me, as it should be to all medical professionals. It is especially important for pharmacists, as they are probably the most accessible medical professionals to consult with patients about this research on an ongoing basis.
Aside from relying on clinically oriented, peer-reviewed pharmacy journals like U.S. Pharmacist to gather information they, as I do, scour the Internet for research studies of interest. But as we all know, oftentimes research and their results are misleading or misguided and should be investigated carefully before passing along to patients. Many studies are contradicted or refuted by later research. This has caused me to become skeptical about many outcomes of research studies, and I’ve adopted an attitude that if you wait long enough, much of the research published will be rebutted by another “reputable” research center. To prove my point, I recently searched one of my favorite Internet sites, ScienceDaily. This site presents research news in a timely, informative, and condensed manner. I decided to search for a couple of very popular and oftentimes controversial topics.
Over the years there have been hundreds of research articles published about the benefits and risks of statins. Since statins were touted as being the best thing since sliced bread, I decided to review nearly two dozen articles published. While many of the researched article headlines were very positive such as “Treating More Adults With Statins Would be Cost-Effective Way to Treat Heart Health,” a month later a headline for another research study read “Why Statins Should be Viewed as a Double-Edged Sword.” This study focused more on statins’ potentially serious side effects.
Another area of contention was the importance of vitamin D. One headline read “Higher levels of Vitamin D Correspond to Lower Cancer Risk.” Yet, only 6 months later another research study highlighted that “Vitamin D May Not be the Great Solution to Health Problems.” And who knew that drinking coffee was actually good for your health!
The point is, research outcomes are important factors in developing conclusions about certain pharmaceutical products, and passing along this information to patients is a valuable service performed by pharmacists. But pharmacists must make sure that the study they are quoting is solid and should always add the caveat that studies can be viewed differently depending on their methodology and how data is interpreted. Researching the research is the key to providing useful and beneficial information to their patients.