Drug Information Center Services State of Alabama; Processes 5,000th Request

March 31, 2017

AUBURN, Alabama – Tucked away within the hallways of the Harrison School of Pharmacy’s Walker Building is a glass-walled room filled with books, journals and research materials. Students, faculty, staff and visitors walk past it daily, not always knowing what goes on in there. Within those walls is the Drug Information Center. A service to the state provided by the Harrison School of Pharmacy, the Drug Information Center is a resource for all in Alabama to ask questions and find out more about drugs and medications.

The primary mission of the Drug Information Center (DIC) is to improve patient care in the state of Alabama. This is accomplished by providing on-demand consultative services, generally free of charge, to Alabama health professionals on any aspect of drugs, drug therapy, and pharmacy practice.

The DIC is well-equipped with subscriptions to approximately 50 medical and pharmacy journals and newsletters, and about 400 volumes of texts and reference books. In addition, there is access to comprehensive electronic drug databases including Micromedex, Clinical Pharmacology, Facts and Comparisons eAnswers and Lexi-Comp. The Auburn University Libraries provide a large collection of biomedical books and journals, as well as extensive access to literature search systems and databases such as Medline and International Pharmaceutical Abstracts. The DIC also has a partnership with the University of South Alabama Biomedical Library and its extensive literature resources.

Two drug information specialist pharmacists, Dr. Bernie Olin (Director) and Dr. Wes Lindsey (Assistant Director), with extensive training and experience in drug information services staff the center. Fourth-year student pharmacists (P4), perform many of the center’s services under the direct supervision of the faculty specialists. Every question or request is thoroughly researched, resources vetted, and responses written and well-documented.

Recently, the Drug Information Center completed it’s 5,000th request on record since 1998. While the DIC has been around for a long time, it experienced a revitalization in the mid-1990s and started tracking requests in 1998. Dr. Olin, currently the director of the DIC, arrive in 2002. To celebrate their benchmark, Dr. Olin recently sat down to talk about the DIC and its services.

What is the Drug Information Center?
Olin: “The Auburn University Drug Information Center (AUDIC) is an outreach service offered by the Harrison School of Pharmacy.  In a nutshell, we are a consult service to the state of Alabama healthcare professionals on any topic related to drugs, medications, pharmacotherapy, pharmacy practice and health care.  We are staffed by two full-time drug information specialists who are also faculty members, as well as fourth year student-pharmacists who rotate with us in five week blocks.

“We have three primary purposes. Our overall mission is to provide unbiased information on drugs, medications and pharmacy practice, as a support to Alabama health care professionals for use in patient care, education and research. In addition, we have an education mission to provide Auburn student pharmacists and pharmacy residents with the opportunity and training to learn and develop drug information skills that will serve them in their health care careers. Lastly, we also have a research mission to collaborate and contribute to the areas of drug information practice, drug information education, drug policy and medication criteria development and drug education research.

“All pharmacy schools expose and instruct their students in many of the concepts included in a drug information practice.  However, not all schools have a functioning drug information center staffed by specialists.”

How long has the HSOP DIC been in existence?
Olin: “The Harrison School of Pharmacy has had a drug information center since the 1970s although attention to it has waxed and waned over those years.  I came to Auburn in Spring 2002, taking over from the previous director who had departed about a year before.  We have established a firm client base and are a recognized source of drug information.  Perhaps the two biggest changes over the last 15 years are first, the ongoing transition from information in print to electronic provision of information.  Second, the complexity of the questions received has increased.

“The transition from print to electronic resources is something that most people have experienced in many fields. In pharmacy, much of our data is now available electronically which for the most part is good, in that we have greater and faster access to more information both from established, commercial databases as well as the Internet.  A downside side to that is that there is so much information available of questionable quality, particularly on the Internet, that we, and many others, must carefully evaluate the sources for their applicability and the information therein.

“The electronic availability of information also drives the second big change and that is question complexity.  In the past we would receive a number of simple questions, such as a particular drug’s trade name or manufacturer. Now, most practitioners can easily find those answers themselves.  The questions we typically receive now are more complex, involving searches of multiple resources including extensive biomedical literature searches.  We then must synthesize and evaluate a larger volume of information to formulate a cogent and useful response to the practitioner.”

How did you get into this kind of work?
Olin: “As an undergraduate student-pharmacist I took a course in Drug Information at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, somewhat equivalent to our current clerkships and just really enjoyed the work. I was able to pursue a post-graduate Doctor of Pharmacy degree and then a clinical pharmacy residency which allowed me to customize the experience to favor drug information. I found the challenge of searching and developing an answer to a complex therapeutic question to be akin to a detective.  Sifting, locating, evaluating and formulating an answer with the best available resources was, and remains, an enjoyable challenge.”

What is the clientele of the DIC like?
Olin: “The clientele of the AUDIC is officially all health care practitioners of Alabama.  Statistically, the majority of our clients are pharmacists. However, we have a variety of callers including physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, et cetera. We also have occasional calls from more varied backgrounds such as attorney’s, legislators, and the lay public.

What are some of the resources/services offered to healthcare professionals by the DIC?
Olin: “Our primary product or service is to provide health care professionals with immediate access to objective, concise and unbiased information on drug therapy problems. These questions can include patient-specific questions including evaluation of specific information such as laboratory data and other medications to recommend a specific therapy; evaluation of patient medications for appropriateness (a drug review); and more general questions/reviews of specific therapies.

“We supplement the continuing education of all health care professionals through the publishing and distribution of journal articles and newsletters which keep clinicians aware of the latest information on drug therapy.  Prominent examples are continuing education articles in the state pharmacy journal, Alabama Pharmacy, and the regular publishing of a newsletter, AU InforMed, which has more than 250 issues to date.

“We provide live seminars/presentations on a variety of pharmacotherapeutic topics including side effects of medications and some drug abuse topics. The AUDIC also provides services such as formulary management, Pharmacy and Therapeutic Committee drug monographs, medication usage evaluation services, clinical practice guidelines, and disease state management services in a contractual manner.”

What brought you to Auburn?
Olin: “I came to Auburn from a corporate position and wanted to get back into academia.  The Director of Drug Information position was open. I knew Auburn by reputation, of course, but I also knew several faculty here through previous associations over the years.  After interviewing in Auburn, I was more convinced that it would be a great career site and family location. I have not been disappointed.”

How do you see the mission of the DIC parallel with the Auburn University mission as a land-grant university in the state?
Olin: “The AUDIC fits the land-grant university mission perfectly well. It is an outreach service with the intent to support all health professionals of the state of Alabama in their need for the most current and unbiased information on medications and their use.  In addition, its other major mission is to contribute to the education of Auburn’s student pharmacists so that they have all the skills that they need to competently practice pharmacy once they graduate.  The students also know that they have a resource after they graduate and we hear from many of them.”

The DIC provides these services live from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and via voice mail, email and website requests. They can be reached by phone at 334-844-4400, by email at hsopdi@auburm.edu, or by visiting the website http://pharmacy.auburn.edu/dilrc/.

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About the Harrison School of Pharmacy
Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy is ranked among the top 20 percent of all pharmacy schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the School offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.) while also offering a master’s in pharmaceutical sciences. For more information about the School, please call 334.844.8348 or visit http://pharmacy.auburn.edu.

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Last Updated: March 31, 2017