The Roundup: Drugs and drug policies

Wikipedia has nearly 8,000 pharmacology articles, and these are accessed 40 million times per month. In the US alone, Wikipedia’s health-related searches outnumber those leading to websites such as the NIH, WebMD, and Mayo Clinic.

While information on health information can always be improved, we’re intrigued by Dr. Ye Li’s course at the University of Michigan, “22 ways to think about drugs.” This class focuses on the context of pharmaceuticals and the pharmaceutical industry, “the science and technology that stands behind important aspects of chemistry such as drug development, materials, and new energy sources.”

The work of these students has been viewed 148,000 times since they started working on Wikipedia. Students worked on 19 articles that help the public make sense of drugs in a variety of forms.

For example, students nearly doubled the article on Vaccination policies, which explores the various strategies nations can employ regarding vaccinations. The article explains the relevance of herd immunity and outlines the strategies of 13 countries.

The article on Drug recalls was just 14 words when students tackled it. It now stands at 2,983 words, offering examples of recalls and a description of the policy mechanisms at work in the United States.

Finally, students created an article about the Drug policies of Michigan. It outlines specific, local policies on cannabis, alcohol, and heroin and opiates. It also includes an outline of Michigan’s “drug-free workplace” and “Per se” laws, cited to specific legislation from the Michigan state government. Thanks to these students, Michigan is one of the six states with its own drug policy page on Wikipedia.

It’s important that people find reliable, trustworthy information online, especially when it comes to medicine. While we’ve supported the work of medical editing in advanced medical school courses, there are plenty of opportunities for undergraduates to develop content around the legal, political and social aspects of pharmaceuticals.

Thanks to these students for contributing their knowledge to Wikipedia. This is exactly the kind of work we were hoping the Year of Science would bring forward!

Photo: Various Pills by MorgueFile, CC BY-SA 3.0.


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