Pharmaceutical information: A 30-year perspective on the literature

David Bawden, Lyn Robinson
2011 Annual Review of Information Science and Technology  
The literature describing the pharmaceutical information is reviewed, from 1980 (with some earlier material included) to 2008. The review, with 466 references covers: the pharmaceutical information domain; previous reviews and monographs; pharmaceutical information producers and users; pharmaceutical information organisation (classifications, thesaurus and terminoloigies); pharmaceutical information sources, services and retrieval; pharmaceutical information and knowledge management; and the
more » ... ain's influence on the information science discipline. The review shows the pharmaceutical subject domain to be particularly information intensive, with a complex communication chain, involving a notably varied set of producers and users of information, and a rich and diverse set of resources. The area has seen much pioneering work in the development of information systems and services, and of the management of information and knowledge. It can reasonably be argued that it stimulated and nurtured the development of information science as a discipline. The pharmaceutical information domain 'Pharmaceutical information' is usually taken to mean all the information required for, and produced during, the discovery, development, production, supply, regulation and use of medicines. Usually, human medicines are meant, though the term may sometimes also cover information relevant to veterinary medicines. The term usually includes all 'remedial preparations', and hence covers vaccines, antisera, diagnostics, etc. The terms 'medicines information' and 'drug information' have been used synonymously, although the latter has, in recent years, mainly taken the meaning of information provided relating to the use of recreational drugs. Gagnon (1986) , in fairly typical view, considered the area to comprise five disciplines: medicinal chemistry; pharmaceutics; pharmacology and toxicology; pharmacy administration; and pharmacy practice. The educational philosopher Paul Hirst argues that, since disciplines are closely associated with their knowledge base, we can understand a discipline by understanding its "form of knowledge" (Hirst, 1974, Hirst and Peters,1970). Hirst identifies seven main domains or forms of knowledge, defined by the fundamental nature of the knowledge and concepts with which they deal: mathematics, physical sciences, human sciences, literature and the fine arts, morality, religion, and philosophy. Where a discipline equates to one of these forms, it is what would be regarded as a "pure" academic subject. Hirst also recognises "practical disciplines", based on one of the forms, but oriented toward solving practical problems. Pharmaceuticals, in his terms, would be, like all the other biomedical disciplines, a practical discipline based on the form of knowledge of the biological sciences. Like other healthcare topics, however, it also includes materials more related to the social sciences (Robinson 2010). We may expect therefore that pharmaceutical information will be of diverse nature, but will follow healthcare knowledge in having a generally clear and consistent structure, in the form of a complex hierarchy, with many levels (Blois 1984 , Patel and Kaufman 2000 , Robinson 2010 ). This is confirmed by the nature of pharmaceutical information resources, and information organisation, discussed below. Pharmaceutical information is created and used by a wide variety of groups, including: • scientists in academia and in the pharmaceutical industry • industry marketers, government regulators, and health service purchasers and managers • doctors, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals • the general public, as 'consumers' of prescription and over-the-counter medicines Information about medicines is extensive and very varied in its nature and its intended use and users. Information is produced, and required, at all stages of the development and use of medicines, from the earliest stages of multidisciplinary pharmaceutical R&D, through clinical trials and regulatory approval, through the use of medicines on prescription and sold over-thecounter (see, for example, Brown 1983 , Haygarth-Jackson 1987A, Robson, Bawden and Judd 2001). Kasarab (2006) notes one practical consequence of this -the need for very extensive document supply services for a pharmaceutical company. As early as 1963, a National Library of Medicine survey on drug literature commented that "Drug literature is vast and complex. The very problem of defining what constitutes the literature is difficult... It is also increasingly complex, i.e. interdisciplinary and interprofessional in nature. Thus, drug information 'sprawls across' many professional journals of the most varied types" (Gora-Harper and Amerson 2006) . The situation has not changed in the intervening half-century. The 'scientist' information producer/user group is a very broad one. Pharmaceutical information is of relevance not only to those sciences which focus on the topic -pharmacy, pharmacology, toxicology and medicinal chemistry -but also to a range of associated sciences, including:
doi:10.1002/aris.2011.1440450109 fatcat:qirsfglp35f3xpiyz6hf6f2ude