Online drug searches vastly differ in U.S. and Canada

Canadians and Americans are getting widely different search results when they look up prescription drugs online.

Google returns different results

Study finds prescription drug searches come up with more biased information in Canada than the U.S..

Online drug searches in Canada are a bit like the "wild west" says the author of a study comparing the information Canadians and Americans find on the web.

The study, done by the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research at the University of British Columbia, found that people on opposite sides of the border get vastly different search results when they look up information about prescription drugs online.

Michael Law, the lead writer of the study and an assistant professor at UBC, says "Patients should be sure to verify the information they find online before making treatment decisions." 
Michael Law, UBC, says Canadians need to be careful about drug information they get from Google. ((UBC))

Americans who used Google for both brand and generic drug names are directed to the government-run National Library of Medicine.  However, Canadians doing the same searches end up getting Wikipedia for generic drugs and drug company sites for brand names. 

Previous research has found significant problems with both the information on Wikipedia, and in the drug information produced and distributed by drug companies, according to the authors.

One of the reasons for the discrepancy in search results is a 2010 partnership between Google and the National Institutes of Heath (NIH), which returns NIH-sponsored drug information pages more prominently for searches by U.S. audiences. 

The study, published online this week in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy, also noted that the most viewed drug pages on the internet are those with the potential for addiction, like Oxycodone, and drugs for stigmatized conditions, such as antidepressants.