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Iodine App: Does This Drug Information Tool Really Work?
1. Drug Listings for Common Health Problems
Iodine is a great resource on common issues like allergies and colds. Tap on the symptoms bothering you the most, like body aches or a cough, and you get a list of appropriate medications, descriptions of what the meds do, and a concise list of pros and cons.
For example, here’s the information for ibuprofen:
2. Detailed Side Effects, But a Wonky Comparison Tool
One caveat: While Iodine's list of medicines is extensive, the information about many drugs appear to be incomplete. However, when the entry is complete, the information can be outstanding. For instance, many entries include not only a list of side effects, but also the actual percentage of people who developed each side effects in clinical trials (as shown in the below screen shot at right).
There’s a section in the app to compare medications, but all it really lets you do is go back and forth between the information pages for each drug. It would be better to show you a side-by-side comparison of key factors that could affect your decision about a medication, such as costs and side effects.
3. Crowdsourced Reviews and Medication Rankings
The feature of this app that’s garnered the most attention is the crowdsourced reviews. While the idea seems great in principle, it doesn’t quite work in practice.
When I looked at several of the health conditions, the user reviews led to some odd top-ranked medications. For COPD, the top-ranked medication is azithromycin, an antibiotic generally used to treat flairs, not manage the condition over time.
For benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), two of the three top-ranked medications are for erectile dysfunction. But it’s really the recommendation for women that caught my eye: Women don’t have prostates, so they can’t have BPH.
The bottom line is that Iodine is a great resource for learning more about a specific medication, but only if that medication’s information is complete. It's also a good tool for looking up over-the-counter medications for common conditions like allergies and colds. But it's not so good that I’d forgo discussing any new medicines with a pharmacist or doctor, especially if you have other medical conditions.
The user reviews and drug-comparison features aren’t quite ready for prime time, and I’d recommend not using them until some of the kinks get worked out.
Video: Find Better Information About Medications
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