Tag Archives: health care

Medicine search on Google

In November of last year Google announced that it was going to start showing a knowledge graph for searches on medicines. (Look up medications more quickly and easily on Google, http://insidesearch.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/look-up-medications-more-quickly-and.html). I am now seeing it in my search results but only on Google.com.

When I search on ibuprofen Google now gives me some key facts on the drug in a box to the right of the standard web results. The information includes indications for use, side effects, brand names, contraindications and other drugs that people also searched for. The sources it uses are the National Library of Medicine, US FDA, DailyMed and and Micromedex.

Google results for ibuprofen

Ibuprofen is the generic name for this painkiller and is one of the names under which it is sold in the UK and many other countries. Searching on the brand name Nurofen, which is not available in the US, brings up web search results with shopping options at the top. There is no knowledge graph this time.

Google results for nurofen

I played around with a few other brand names and found that if it is on sale in the US, for example Motrin, Google is able to identify the active ingredient.  

Google search results for Motrin

So Google’s new medicine search is US-centric: US brand names and US sources of information. It will be interesting to see if and how they roll it out to other countries. Meanwhile, for those of in the UK NHS Choices provides better and more detailed information on medicines at http://www.nhs.uk/medicine-guides/, and if you are interested in a drug’s physical or chemical properties Chemspider (http://www.chemspider.com/) is a good starting point.

Already appearing in UK Google results is the related medical conditions feature. Type in a symptom and Google lists possible related conditions at the top of the page.

Google related medical conditions

If you are using Google.co.uk or are based in the UK clicking on any of the conditions in the list brings up content that is UK focused. It will be interesting to see if they do the same with the medicines knowledge graph.

Literature Review (1984): Christmas can seriously damage your health

Some of you may have seen the article in the Times Higher Education – What will poor Robin do then? Perforate your small bowel. It reminded me of an article I wrote for an in-house newsletter in 1984 when I was working for a pharmaceutical company and which addresses similar issues. Here  it is (reference number 3 is the one referred to in the THE headline):

Seated one day at the terminal
I was weary and ill at ease
And my fingers wandered idly
Over the noisy keys (1)

So I decided to cheer myself up, type in a few Christmassy search terms into Medline and see what papers came up. Bingo! 354 hits. However, a glance at some of the titles revealed that the majority were articles on Christmas disease (a form of haemophilia); one was concerned with crystals in the eye called Christmas tree decorations because of their light refractive properties (2); and another was entitled “Small bowel perforation due to a Christmas cake decoration”(3). A broader scan of the literature merely confirmed my initial impression that Christmas merits a government health warning.

It seems that beer drinking is the only festive activity that does not give rise to some class of serious ADR (Adverse Drug Reaction). A group from the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle have shown that drinking six pints of McEwans Export “causes remarkably little metabolic disturbance”(4). Nevertheless, the volunteers did suffer from headache, nausea, dry mouth and malaise the following morning. It is also interesting to note that the eminent Professor KGMM Alberti was thanked for his “invaluable help”.

Those of you who prefer a drop of uisgebeatha may be interested in a trial conducted to discover whether or not regular drinkers can distinguish single malts from blended whiskey (5). They could not, but the design of the trial has been criticised. A very select group of volunteers were used (surgeons from one unit) and the question “How blind were the volunteers?” was raised (6). Furthermore, were the 36 tastings by each volunteer carried out in one sitting as implied by the study? (6). If so, then LD50’s, despite now being less favoured, may have yielded more useful information.

As for Rudolf, rumours that his red nose is due to excessive intake of Christmas cheer have finally been scotched by a report of two moose involved in motorcycle collisions (7). The crash investigators carefully point out that “One motorcyclist was intoxicated. No evidence of alcohol was found in either moose”.

With respect to Santa Claus himself, it is not surprising that belief in Father Christmas has been found to decline markedly with age and is associated with a rise in “causal reasoning” (8). The poor economic climate has also meant that Santa has had to be given the sack by some department stores (9). It seems that they can no longer afford to provide the necessary “specialist working environment” – namely a grotto.

The shops may be able to get away with making Father Christmas redundant, but British Rail were not so lucky when they tried to economise on their “Santa Specials” (10). One angry customer demanded a refund when he found that although there were elves and pixies as advertised, the train was definitely deficient in fairies. A BR spokesman stated “The man has complained that there were no fairies. Indeed there were not but we did have four children dressed up as elves and pixies. I am reluctant to refund the man’s £1.25 …….because he did have his mince pie and a glass of sherry”.

Which neatly brings me to the nutritional aspect of the Yuletide celebration. This also presents problems. Apart from the cake decorations mentioned earlier, bay leaves may have to be surgically removed (11), and asparagus can give you pongy pee (12). However, you can rest assured that the DHSS has taken steps to ensure that gobbling your turkey does not give you the trots (13); and the EEC is very particular about the size of the crustaceans in your prawn cocktail (14).

In theory, you can always offset any overindulgence in plum pud by participating in some outdoor activity, but this too is beset with perils. The hazards of jogging have been well documented with syndromes such as jogger’s nipple (15), jogger’s liver (16), judo-jogger’s itch (17) and penile frostbite (18) top of the list. If you think cycling is safer, be warned: the Victorians identified a similar catalogue of complaints associated with that pastime including Kyphosis bicyclistarum or cyclist’s stoop, bicycle hernia, cyclist’s neurosis and cyclist’s sore throat (19). Bicycle face was characterised by a “peculiar strained set look, produced by the excessive tension involved in maintaining balance on a two wheeled machine”. More recently a case of unicyclists sciatica has been reported (20).

Indoor pursuits are not much safer: addicts of Rubik’s cube can be incapacitated by cuber’s thumb (21); and prolonged sessions of video games can give rise to unilateral wrist pain referred to variously as Space Invader’s wrist, Asteroids osteoarthritis and pinball palsy (22). But don’t think that being a spectator is free from side-effects. The excitement of watching a football match has been known to cause Celtics fever or “play-off induced ventricular arrhythmias” (23).

If, like me, you are now thoroughly depressed then why not go to a party? There seem to be plenty going on especially in the NHS (24). Since the Chancellor of the Exchequer is intent on cutting NHS expenditure he should perhaps read a paper from the BMJ, which expresses concern at the extent of these unorganised jollifications (24). The situation is sufficiently serious to warrant the recommendation that an administrator be appointed to rationalise this area of hospital life. Strange that the post was not mentioned by Roy Griffiths in the NHS Management Inquiry.

Finally, just to make you feel even worse the morning after, here are a few European translations of the term “hangover”: baksmälla – kickback, katzenjammer – cat misery, and gueule de bois – mouth of wood.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


  1. Adapted from A Lost Chord by Adelaide Ann Proctor
  2. “Christmas Tree Decoration” crystals in the lens Klin Monatsbl Augenheilkd 1983;182(1):15
  3. Small bowel perforation due to a Christmas cake decoration BMJ 1983;287:1923-1924
  4. Acute biochemical responses to moderate beer drinking BMJ 1982;285:1770-1773
  5. Can malt whisky be discriminated from blended whisky? The proof. A modification of Sir Ronald Fisher’s hypothetical tea tasting experiment BMJ 1983;287:1912-1913
  6. How blind were the volunteers? BMJ 1983;287:1914-1915
  7. Moose-motorcyle collisions New Eng J Med 1981;305(10):590-591
  8. Children’s belief in Santa Claus. A developmental study of fantasy and causality J Amer Acad Child Psychiat 1979;18(4):658
  9. Santa Claus gets the sack in three stores. The Times, Nov 24, 1980
  10. Railway fairies unfit for elf fanatic. The Daily Telegraph Nov 22, 1979
  11. Beware the bay leaf BMJ 1980;281:1682
  12. Volatile organic components in human urine after ingestion of asparagus Clin Chem 1977;23:1941
  13. Turkeys, safe preparation Health Notice (HN)1977:190
  14. Long-awaited reform of the prawn laws The Times Aug 8, 1980
  15. Jogger’s nipples New Eng J Med 1977:297:1127
  16. Jogger’s liver New Eng J MEd 1980;303:589
  17. Judo-jogger’s itch New Eng J MEd 1979;300:866
  18. Penile frostbite, an unforeseen hazard of jogging New Eng J MEd 1977;296:178
  19. Are exercise ailments cyclical New Eng J MEd 1983;309:858-859
  20. Unicyclists sciatica – a case report New Eng J MEd 1981;305:231-232
  21. Cuber’s thumb New Eng J MEd 1981;305:768
  22. Space-invader’s wrist New Eng J MEd 1981;304:1368
  23. Celtics fever: playoff induced ventricular arrhythmia New Eng J MEd 1981;305:467-468
  24. Hospital Christmas Parties BMJ 1980;281:1667-1668

Date originally written: 7th December 1984
Author: Karen Blakeman

Social media in health care libraries – wikis and Netvibes win

I recently ran a version of my social media workshop for a group of health care librarians and information professionals in Liverpool. The group were LIHNN (Library and Information Health Network North West) and HCLU (Health Care Libraries Unit). (For further information about them see their web site at http://www.lihnn.nhs.uk/). I was forewarned that many of them have limited access to social media. Several confirmed that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs were all blocked in their workplace, yet most of them came from organisations who had set up YouTube channels, Twitter streams and Facebook pages! This raises an interesting question: if they receive a query about, for example, an event listed on their Facebook page or the content of a video on YouTube how are they supposed to respond if they are not able to check the content at the time of the enquiry? I find this mass blocking of social media web sites by organisations totally bizarre and ludicrous. The blocking is not even consistent. Slideshare may be blocked but other presentation sharing sites are often accessible. Add to this the antediluvian technology most of them are forced to use – in particular IE6 – and we end up with organisations that are out of touch with their users and communities, and have no idea what is being discussed or said about them.

But health care librarians and information professionals, and  health care practitioners are an inventive lot. There is plenty of evidence of them having circumvented the barriers put in their way. The excellent Liz Azyan published a series of blog postings on social media and health care just before the workshop took place and they provide plenty of examples and support for those putting together a case for access to social media.

The postings are:

The Liverpool workshop participants were equally innovative. During the practical sessions they were able to test out social media for providing up to date information on their services and current awareness to their users. The winners were wikis for creating mini-websites and Netvibes for presenting RSS feeds and current awareness. The NHS Bolton Library wiki at http://boltonpct.pbworks.com/ and Shrewsbury and Telford Health Libraries Netvibes Team Knowledge Update at http://www.netvibes.com/sathlibraries are just two examples. There was also a great deal of interest in Twitter and blogs for at least monitoring “conversations” on health related topics and their own organisations, and word clouds for analysing the content of documents.

Facebook did not win any converts, nor did Second Life.

My PowerPoint presentation for the day is available in several places, and you should be able to view or download it from at least one of them:




Event: CASH – a Current Awareness Service for Health

CILIP in the Thames Valley evening event

Date: Tuesday 6 April 2010

Time: 18.00 for 18.30

Venue: Great Expectations, 33 London Street, Reading, Berkshire RG1 4PS

Chrissy Allott: CASH, a Current Awareness Service for Health

From a local to a national current awareness and alerting service; from primary care to mental health and secondary care, the aim of CASH is to provide a nationally managed and coordinated current awareness service to ensure that all health care staff are kept up-to-date.

This is a free event followed by refreshments and a chance to network with your colleagues from the local area. An invitation is extended to anyone with a professional interest in the topic.

Please advise Norman Briggs, Events Co-Ordinator, Tel: 0118 987 1115 or nwbriggs@pcintell.co.uk or Chrissy Allott, Chairperson Chrissy.Allott@berkshire.nhs.uk if you plan to attend.

Date for your diaries

Tuesday 4 May: CILIP in the Thames Valley & South East Branch Joint AGM 2010

The South East branch will hold a joint AGM with the CILIP in Thames Valley sub-branch on Tuesday 4 May at the Town Hall, Reading, from 1.00pm. Further details of speakers and events will be announced soon.

TriMark Publications – Biotechnology, Healthcare and Life Sciences Market Research

TriMark Publications focuses on market research in biotechnology, health care and the life sciences. You can browse reports or search by keyword. The market reports vary in price but there are detailed table of contents and the first three or four pages available free of charge as a sample. However, any figures or data on the pages are blacked out.  It is refreshing, though, to see a detailed listing of what is contained in the reports before you part with significant amounts of money.

Sector Snapshots cost just USD 500 and provide a high-level overview of a particular market sector, including key players, sales data and emerging trends.

Database Tables, costing USD 100 each, are a one-page table of hard-to-find numerical information. They are derived from “a proprietary source” and provide a high-level overview of specific data points in a table format. Database Tables are not reports or comprehensive analyses.

PharmaLive Search

PharmaLive Search

PharmaLive Search (http://www.pharmalivesearch.com/) is maintained by publisher PharmaLive and powered by Convera. It searches PharmaLive’s collection of publications, selected industry and therapeutic web sites, and relevant blogs. You can search Publisher Recommended Sites, PharmaLive.com, or the Web. Although the web search option is not limited to specially selected sites, they are ranked for relevance with respect to the subject and have been filtered for spam.

‘Publisher recommended sites’ covers over 25 000 000 documents from more than 2600 selected domains. ‘Search PharmaLive’ provides results from the PharmaLive itself and its print publications. Much of the information is free but articles from PharmaLive’s own publications are priced.

Variations in spellings, for example hypoglycaemia and hypoglycemia, are automatically included in your search as are synonyms. My search on mushroom poisoning picked up terms such as toxicity, and ‘adverse reactions’ picked up ‘adverse effects’. As one would expect from a vertical search engine, the synonym identification is vastly superior to Google’s efforts. If you make a complete mess of the spelling it automatically prompts you with a “did you mean..” option.

At the top of your results page there are links to broader, narrower and related terms, and to the left of the screen are displayed most popular searches and related concepts. You can focus your search further by using the category tabs. For example, if you have chosen to search publisher recommended sites there are tabs for All, Associations, Media, Government (as far as I could see this covers relevant bodies world-wide), Companies, R&D, and Blogs. When searching PharmaLive.com you are offered options for Med Ad News, R&D Directions, and Pharma Live News. Those articles that are only available on subscription are marked with a blue padlock.

If you regularly search for pharmaceutical and health care information , add this one to your list of tools and also consider downloading the PharmLive Search toolbar.