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Can parents believe websites’ information about methylphenidate’s side effects?
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  • Published on:
    Parents' need for online information about methylphenidate may differ from that described by England and Tuthill.
    • Michael J Morton, Hon Clinical senior Lecturer in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry University of Glasgow
    • Other Contributors:
      • Gazala Akram, Senior Teaching Fellow /Adv Psych Pharmacist,

    England and Tuthill deserve congratulation for highlighting the need to review the accuracy of drug information on the web. It is encouraging to see an apparent improvement in the quality of online information since we considered this question (Akram et al, 2007) but difficulties in study design would appear to limit the application of these findings. When online information for families is being rated it is important to distinguish between websites geared to the lay reader and those designed for professional reference, which may not be designed specifically to be readable and accessible.

    A more ‘lay person’ centred methodology would also suggest that there is more to accuracy of patient information than a ‘correct’ listing of side effects found in a formulary written for prescribers. In line with General Medical Council guidance on consent (GMC, 2020, Para 23), families need information that correctly highlights common side effects and high risk rare events. A website may miss some, less severe, rare side effects and include some side effects that are not recorded in the formulary without necessarily reducing accuracy in a clinically meaningful way.

    In this important and topical area for clinical research authors would do well to use established methodologies. For example DISCERN (Charnock et al, 1999) still provides a valuable basis for rating the quality of information.

    Akram G, Thomson AH, Boyter A, Morton MJS.
    Characterisation and evaluat...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.