Guide to Prescription Drugs?
April 17, 2008 5:20 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend a good guide to prescription drugs?

I am looking for a guide book for a person with no internet access. They are currently on a regimen that they have little control over, but they want to be able to at least understand what they're taking.

It should be accessible to the layperson - the more current, the better - bonus points for covering drug interactions.
posted by jammy to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Physicians Desk Reference
posted by netbros at 5:30 AM on April 17, 2008

Books like this for the layperson are fairly common; if the local library carries any in its reference section you can see which suits the person best. Last time I searched through that section, I didn't find much of a difference in the popular prescription drug guides my library had. They were all ok on what I was looking for.

(netbros, the standard PDR is about as far as "layperson-friendly" as it's possible to be, I think, but they have released versions that try harder.)
posted by mediareport at 6:47 AM on April 17, 2008

as far *from*
posted by mediareport at 6:48 AM on April 17, 2008

Best answer: The reliable Consumer Reports has a Consumer Drug Reference.
posted by Neiltupper at 7:25 AM on April 17, 2008

The PDR cited by mediareport is the bible here. It is what the doctors use, but the language is not so overly technical that most people could not understand it, especially when it comes to side effects and drug interactions. Since it is so expensive you may want to just read it at the library.
posted by caddis at 7:28 AM on April 17, 2008

I don't know mediareport. I'm with caddis about the PDR. I'm a layperson, not a physician or clinician, and I find the PDR understandable and chock full of everything needed. YMMV.
posted by netbros at 7:39 AM on April 17, 2008

The PDR is excellent. Maybe a PDR combined with the Oxford English Dictionary, or some medical reference if they don't understand all of the terminology. (I grew up reading my mom's PDR and using Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary and our regular dictionary for the words that I didn't understand).
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:52 AM on April 17, 2008

oops, I think I meant netbros, not mediareport
posted by caddis at 7:53 AM on April 17, 2008

The PDR is basically a collection of package inserts from each drug. Generally, you can get package inserts online. Drugs come with a manual, and the package insert is the manual. Yes, it is written for clinicians, but you can get a lot of good info there. Going to usually gets you to the right web site - then search for package insert, or prescribing information.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:10 AM on April 17, 2008

PDR is certainly the bible, but I don't think it's friendly to most laypeople.

Many laypeople will be frightened or intimidated by wads of big medical terms they don't understand. Many will be unwilling or unable to look up all the unfamiliar terms in the adverse reactions/adverse events/warnings/contraindications sections. And lay people lack the context to know which adverse effects are likely to occur in a typical situation, and which ones the drug company was forced to include because they occurred a few times postmarketing, even if a causal relationship was never established.

Basically: The PDR can be confusing and scary. This is why patient-friendly versions of the PI are included with filled prescriptions; the presumption is that most patients won't understand the full version.

The Consumer Reports book mentioned above would probably be a good bet.
posted by ROTFL at 9:44 AM on April 17, 2008

Best answer: A couple of recommendations for paper references:

PDR Handbook is a consumer-friendly version of the venerable PDR.

The Pill Book is widely available, and very popular. My local CVS has this for sale in the pharmacy.

References used by nurses tend to be very good. Yes, these are written for healthcare professionals, so may be less accessible, but you will find a lot of very practical information. You could try the PDR Nurse's guide handbook, or the Nursing Drug Handbook.
posted by selfmedicating at 1:25 PM on April 17, 2008

Response by poster: thanks for the suggestions everyone

i think i'm going to go with a general guide, like the Consumer Reports one or the Pill Book & maybe suggest a Nurse Handbook if they want to get more advanced - exploring some of the links selfmedicating offered i found this one which seems nice & up to date

i had no idea the PDR was just a collection of manufacturer's package inserts, or the controversies stemming from this - interesting reading

posted by jammy at 4:26 PM on April 18, 2008

It's true that the PDR is essentially a collection of manufacturer's package inserts, but the other books are just a translation into layman's terms of those same inserts, with quite a bit less information most of the time. It's not like there is an independent source of information here. It all comes from the manufacturer. There are some internet sites which purport to provide independent information, and they can be valuable, but rarely, if ever, are they based upon science, double blind research studies. The PDR has the most information, but it is definitely the most work for the lay person to understand. Most people, and certainly most people on MeFi can, perhaps with looking up a few terms, understand the complete entry in the PDR.
posted by caddis at 5:11 PM on April 18, 2008

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