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DRUGFACTS.com Portal Launched to Fill a Niche
by
Posted On January 29, 2001
On December 4, 2000, Wolters Kluwer International Health & Science (WKIHS; http://www.wkihs.com) introduced DRUGFACTS.com (http://www.drugfacts.com), a new portal aimed at pharmacists and drug information professionals. DRUGFACTS is a collective initiative of the WKIHS companies, which include such luminary brand names as Facts and Comparisons, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Ovid Technologies, and Adis International. On January 16, ISL Consulting (http://www.islco.com) also announced this launch, elaborating on the work it did in conjunction with Art Technology Group and Interwoven to bring DRUGFACTS.com to market. That an e-business services firm such as ISL Consulting would also issue such a release is a good indication of just how dependent content companies are on e-specialists when they launch a full-service, interactive portal. DRUGFACTS is no exception. Wolters Kluwer is a traditional publisher, with very rich content but relatively little experience in the dot-com world.

John V. Levon, PharmD, and DRUGFACTS.com's e-commerce business development manager, said that DRUGFACTS intends to become "your drug information destination." The company is targeting medicine, pharmacy, and nursing. Each market needs drug information, but Levon says that they need it "in different flavors." Depending on their situations, each market may require information on new drug approvals, unlabeled or off-labeled uses, herbal information, or drug interactions. Trying to be all things to all people who need drug information, the company is focusing on five C's: content, community, connectivity, commerce, and collaboration.

This differentiates DRUGFACTS.com from the ubiquitous health dot-coms, in that drug information is its raison d'etre. The professional medicine dot-coms, such as Medscape, treat drug information as a subset of medical practice rather than the focus of the site. Consumer health dot-coms, such as drkoop.com, focus more on health and wellness. A more drug-focused site, Gold Standard Multimedia's Clinical Pharmacology 2000, has detailed drug information and some records keeping abilities, but lacks the community, collaboration, connectivity, and commerce aspects.

For content, DRUGFACTS.com draws from various offerings currently provided by the WKIHS family of companies. Free data come from sources as diverse as Facts and Comparisons' A to Z Drug Facts, Guide to Popular Natural Products, Developments in Diseases, and Disease Overview. Selected articles from the premium Adis newsletters Inpharma, PharmacoEconomics & Outcomes News Weekly, and Reactions Weekly are also free, as are focused news and monthly feature articles. Premium content comes in the form of Drug Facts and Comparisons and Drug Interaction Facts. Although DRUGFACTS.com's opening page notes that this content is available by subscription only, hitting the link to Drug Facts and Comparisons brings the user to a registration site for FactsandComparisons.com, with no indication of how much access will cost or what is included in the content.

For a new site, there are other technical glitches, as well. A search across the entire site searches both free and premium content. However, selecting a result from the premium content links to the same FactsandComparisons.com registration page, and the search has to be redone once the user registers. Registered users get a log-in page, and, again, must redo the search across the FactsandComparisons site. When the link back to registration instead of the appropriate information was pointed out, Levon acknowledged that the premium content is not yet well-integrated into the site, and that the link-out is a band-aid solution that should soon be fixed. The premium content will be important to the site. Medical librarians praise the print versions, saying that pharmacists wear through the already thin pages in the updateable loose-leaf versions of Drug Facts and Comparisons.

In early January, The Detwiler Group reported that many health and medical sites were slow to incorporate new drug information into their drug databases. Running DRUGFACTS.com through the same tests, it turns out that the information from Drug Facts and Comparisons did, indeed, report on a drug newly approved in April 2000. However, as with most of the tested sites, DRUGFACTS.com had no link to an FDA warning about a common ingredient in over-the-counter and prescription cold and diet medicines. This is a common problem for sites that rely on print publications for content. As Levon acknowledged, it isn't possible to update the online content more frequently than its print counterpart.

As a portal, links to outside sources are expected. DRUGFACTS includes links to the FDA news site, a multi-paged Web guide titled Health Information Topic Search (H.I.T.S.), and a branded link-out to TSCentral for relevant events and trade shows, with other links planned. Other portal aspects include a set of moderated pharmacist forums, with specific focus areas for hospital, retail, community, consultant, academic, and student practitioners.

DRUGFACTS offers tools for pharmacists, such as Drug Product ID, Lab Values, and Interaction Checker. There are two direct links to sites that offer continuing education, ContinuingEducation.com and CECity.com. As with most portals, the opening page sports a search tool, which can be used in a specific area or across the entire site.

Other content partners include Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, which provides disease overview information from Griffith's 5-Minute Clinical Consult; and NewsRX.com, with weekly reports on over 15 categories. Strategic partners, with direct links, include the two continuing education companies and TSCentral.

Several revenue streams are anticipated for DRUGFACTS.com, and Internet promotional options are described under Advertising/Sponsorship. Promotional banners are prominent, and sponsorships are offered for various health channels and online events. Monthly feature articles can be sponsored by organizations' in-house experts. Marketplace offers a place for products to be sold. Sponsors can poll members in specific target areas.

Premium-priced content may form another revenue source. Drug Facts and Comparisons online is priced at $329 for non-print subscribers, Drug Interaction Facts is $169, and Review of Natural Products is $159. A bundled price is available for $592 plus tax. Subscribers to the print versions of these products can have access to the online databases for $29 to $39. Discounted institutional pricing is based on concurrent seat usage, and special pricing is available for educational institutions. For individuals, there is a free 30-day trial, after which the subscriber's credit card will be billed.

According to Levon, Internet health information standards are being watched closely by personnel at DRUGFACTS.com, and they are currently deliberating which of the existing and developing standards are most appropriate for the site.


Susan Detwiler is the principal of The Detwiler Group, author of Super Searchers on Health & Medicine, and editor of Detwiler's Directory of Health & Medical Resources.

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