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Zimmerman's Research Guide



I. U.S. Resources

The best-known drug reference source is probably the Physicians' Desk Reference, available in print, on Westlaw (PDR) and on PDR3D. Also notable are The Merck Index (Merck Publishing), AHFS Drug Information (AHFS), DRUGDEX (available through Micromedex), Facts and Comparisons and Lexi-Drugs.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration provides information on approved drugs through Drugs@FDA and in the Orange Book: Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy publishes an annual by the Survey of Pharmacy Law that is effectively a 50-state-survey of laws governing the industry.

You can get more online drug information from Medlineplus, RxList, Epocrates Online and United States Pharmacopeia. Information on Homoeopathic drugs is available from HPLUS Online, with includes the The Homoopathic Pharmacopoia of the United States, Homeopathic Good Manufacturing Practices, and related materials.

Note: There are also "special" PDRs, notably PDR Generics, PDR for Nonprescription Drugs and PDR Medical Dictionary. Like the main PDR, they are all published and sold by Medical Economics. And Westlaw has historical editions of the regular PDR back to 2006.

To see how effective a drug is compared to its peers, see the AARP's Effectiveness and Safety of Prescription Drugs and/or Consumer Union's Best Buy Drugs.

You can search for drug-related news articles using the Pharmaceutical And Health Industry News and the ESPICOM Pharmaceutical & Medical Device News databases on ProQuest Dialog.

Clinical Trials: To see which drugs are under development, check out the list of clinical trials posted at Center Watch, Healthline, Clinicalconnection.com, and/or ClinicalTrials.gov. Subscription sources include BioMedTracker and Pipeline Watch by Scrip Intelligence.

Licensing: To find out whether a pharmacist, pharmacy or drug distributor is licensed in a particular state, contact the relevant state Board of Pharmacy and/or check their Web site. Lists of Pharmacy Boards are posted by the National Association of Pharmacy Boards (NAPB) and hireRx. Licensing requirements are summarized in the annual Survey of Pharmacy Law by the NAPB.

License and Supply Agreements: Pharmaceutical License Agreements and Supply Agreements for public companies are retrievable by searching the exhibits in a good SEC filings database.

Manufacturers and Pricing: To find out who manufactures a drug, look in Drug Facts and Comparisons and/or the Drug Topics Redbook. To find the biggest drug companies, the Scrip Intelligence League Tables rank the top companies by revenue, growth, sales, profit, etc.. The current price of drugs are posted online at Medicare.gov. For historical prices, look in back volumes of the annual Drug Topics Redbook (Medical Economics) or the monthly Price Alert (Medi-Span). Comparable pricing information is available in electronic format for a flat fee from Medi-Span and First Databank. Note: First Databank stopped publishing the "Blue Book" (i.e., the Essential Directory of Pharmaceuticals) in the late 1990s.

News: While some pharmaceutical news is reported in the general press, there are also specialty publications. Notable publishers include Elsevier and Scrip Intelligence, both discussed below.

Informa publishes a series of "Sheets" that provide news targeted to segments of the pharmaceuticals industry. These include: The Blue Sheet (government and private biomedical research programs); The Gold Sheet (pharmaceutical manufacturing); The Gray Sheet (medical devices); The Green Sheet (pharmacy) The Pink Sheet (prescription and over the counter pharmaceuticals); The Rose Sheet (toiletries and skin care products); and The Tan Sheet (non-prescription drugs and nutritional products). Articles are available through Pharma & MedTech Business Intelligence (formerly Elsevier Business Intelligence). Most of the Sheets are also available through some Lexis subscription plans.

Scrip Intelligence covers pharmaceutical business news including M&A, IPOs, deals, executives, lawsuits, as well as new drugs and clinical trials.

New FDA drug approvals are reported in Pharmaceutical Approvals Monthly and Scrip Intelligence.

Patents: You can look up the patents protecting a specific drug in the Orange Book. Search for the drug name, pull up the record, then click on the "Patents and Exclusivity" link.

Safety & Recalls: To check on a drug's safety record in the U.S., check the FDA's Index to Drug-Specific Information, Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts and the FDAble Search for Drug Adverse Events. Also check the private AdverseEvents database.

Sales figures: Public companies report sales of the major drugs in their annual reports (10-Ks, 20-Fs, etc.). More detailed information may be available in Market Research reports. Each Spring the periodical Drug Topics runs an annual list of the "Top 200" U.S. brand name and generic drugs by sales and by units in a number of markets (retail sales, hospitals, etc.). Sales figures are also published in Chain Drug Review, Drug Week and Drug Store News. Additional sources for information include news databases, analyst reports and annual reports by leading pharmaceutical companies.

IMS Health compiles data on U.S. and international drug sales but sell them only to subscribers.

See also the separate entry for Market Share.

Testing: The leading book on laboratory testing is the Laboratory Test Handbook by Jacobs & DeMott. Another notable book is Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference. To find other books on how to test for pharmaceuticals use the subject heading, "Diagnosis, laboratory -- Handbooks." To find books on how to test for illegal drugs, use the subject heading, "Drugs -- Testing."

Warning Letters: U.S. Food and Drug Administration Warning Letters are available through the FDA Web site and through a number of Thompson online subscription products, including the FDA Enforcement Manual.

II. Foreign Resources

Non-U.S. sources for researching pharmaceuticals include:

  1. The European Medicines Agency
  2. UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency
  3. The British National Formulary (free in the UK or by subscription through MedicinesComplete)
  4. eMC (U.K.)
  5. The Medicines Evaluation Board (Netherlands)

See Also
Chemicals and Chemistry
Drugs -- Prohibition and Regulation
Market Research
Market Share
Medical Materials
Orange Book, The
Science and Engineering

For comments, questions and suggestions, email the author
Copyright 2015 Andrew Zimmerman