Completeness, accuracy, and readability of Wikipedia as a reference for patient medication information

J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2017 Mar-Apr;57(2):197-200.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.japh.2016.12.063. Epub 2017 Jan 28.


Objectives: This study determined the completeness, accuracy, and reading level of Wikipedia patient drug information compared with the corresponding United States product insert medication guides.

Methods: From the Top 200 Drugs of 2012, the top 33 medications with medication guides were analyzed. Medication guides and Wikipedia pages were downloaded on a single date to ensure continuity of Wikipedia content. To quantify the completeness and accuracy of the Wikipedia medication information, a scoring system was adapted from previously published work and compared with the 7 core domains of medication guides.

Results: Wikipedia did not provide patient information that was as complete or accurate as the information within the medication guides: 14.73 out of 42 (SD 5.75). Wikipedia medication pages were written at a significantly higher reading level compared with medication guides (Flesch reading ease score 52.93 vs. 33.24 [P <0.001]; Flesch-Kincaid grade level 10.26 vs. 6.86 [P <0.001]).

Conclusion: Wikipedia medication pages include incomplete and inaccurate patient information compared with the corresponding product medication guides. Wikipedia patient drug information was also written at reading levels above that of medication guides and substantially above the average United States consumer health literacy level. As the public use of Wikipedia increases, the need for educating patients about the quality of information on Wikipedia and the availability of adequate patient education resources is ever more important to minimize inaccuracies and incomplete information sharing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Comprehension
  • Consumer Health Information / standards*
  • Drug Labeling
  • Health Literacy
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods*
  • Internet / standards*
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • United States